The future of the workplace

Today I shared my thoughts on the future of work and the workplace at Startup Thailand. The audience was a mix of students, investors, startup founders, and executives.

I tried to capture how work is changing and create a different social and work experience, requiring all of us more than ever to evolve our skills.

 

 

 

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Modernize the Thai Workforce

Thailand came from a 7% to 5% to 3% growth economy (give or take a few) and now is the most aging economy in the ASEAN (next to Russia and China, the only emerging economy). Instead of uplifting productivity and developing the workforce or investing into people and smart automation (which would lead to more value added products and services, many (not all though) companies have opted for cheap labor from neighboring markets. The other issue is that, by not improving the workforce, the salaries may not be massively increased. This will prevent lower income groups from paying back massive consumer debt, meaning that tax breaks for consumption won’t help uplifting the economy.

Strategically, it is crucial for the country to refocus and given incentives to corporations and entrepreneurs to educate the workforce. Equally, the government must introduce more programs to train and develop workers in factories and offices, while giving tax breaks to companies doing it by their own merits.

By the way, this is also true in newer job groups like Technology related. Thai corporations are still too careful in investing into technology and modernizing technology skills. Many CVs I receive appear to have solid IT skills from people working for local and regional companies. However, many of these tech skills are 3+ years behind what I would consider “modern” technology platforms.

This is probably one of the top 3 topics for the nation to get right! I hope all of you will help to share the message and influence corporations and government to act!

Thailand Must Invest into its Workers

 

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Annual Reports must include a CIO Scorecard


It was a pleasure to have been part of the tremendous team effort over the last few years and having helped driving upsides, which are shown in the Annual Report 2016 of Standard Chartered.

Initiatives like an aggressive API Strategy, the Hadoop and Machine Learning ecosystems driving massive upsides for the business (Very proud to have acted on Hadoop over 3 years ago), agile architectures to power charge channels, RegTech and overall dramatic innovation in the technology environment.

Equally, I am happy to see in the hints in the Annual Report, that quite a few of the initiatives I have been part of kicking off will continue and be expanded in years to come.

Good news!
While reading through the annual report, I was missing more insights of the Group CIO’s visions, views, achievements, and core future initiatives. The state of technical affairs, teams, and investments.
How can shareholders evaluate whether the investments in the bank are worthwhile, if they can’t measure the Technology quality?

Especially in the Banking sector, but also Telecommunciations or Retail, this is the one of the most important true differentiators in today’s world. Looking at many local banks nowadays, they just aren’t able to cope without massive external help! Standard Chartered (as other global players in banking and outside) are having a massively large Technology Organization.

So how are they doing? Do they have talent? Are the delivery at innovation at speed? Is the bank attracting more talent (a sign of great technology teams)?
Investors must asked these questions and Corporations need to share, even in the Annual Report! How digitally and technically ready these are! Scorecards are more than finances, they need to show the investment into the future of the organization and in the digital world!

When I look at Corporations Annual Report, what would I like to see?

1.) The mix of modern versus old technologies, as a sign of capabilities

2.) Outsourced versus Insourced technology capabilities, confirming the abilities to change and innovate

3.) Adoption rate of agility and areas agile methods are being used – Smart Architecture and empowerment of agile teams allow corporations to rapidly create new products and services.

4.) Adoption of Innovation for Technologies and teaming with Startups, this includes the usage of Open Source frameworks – a sign of deeper technology skills

5.) Discretionary versus Non Discreationary cost (Must spend to keep the place going vs budget to drive new projects), shows quality of IT and ability to develop new products and services day by day

6.) Annual achievements in modernizing and simplifying technologies (measuring the transformation journey itself)

7.) Future investment in type, technology, and style

I hope organization will adopt some form of CIO/CTO Scorecard in their annual reviews and also sharing how they invest into changing corporations, so that shareholders can better evaluate the rate of transformation in cororpations.

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How to find good developers?

The mistake most startups and corporates make is to look for a developer with good university or corporate backgrounds.

They fall into the trap of buying brand value.

Big corporates nor Computer Science Universities are being generated because of the engineering talent, but through a self fulfilling prophecy:

“I am big, I m perceived as good, and can get bigger.”

Google and others had to find out that good developers is as much a question of

  • teaming (I am not afraid to publish my code to the world),
  • ingenuity (I love learning new things), and
  • reaching new heights through a grade “A” team (I m becoming better because others are pushing the limits)

A mixture of having worked in popular open source projects, as well as, in a consulting/startup/internet corporatehas the best potential for your initiatives.

You get passion, teaming, and skill!

Axel Winter (aw@axelwinter.com)
Opinions are my own!

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Thailand like most countries need a national CTO, to accelerate digitization.

I know that many people are preoccupied to give you much advise on any possible topic and especially foreigner’s are busy with sometimes ridiculous input. I am since 1993 in Asia and Thailand in different jobs and I have always been careful to understand different point of views before speaking out. My professional background focused me since 1993 on digitizing Asian and Thai companies, and government agencies.

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Digital Agenda making old Corps sexy!

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Financial Services are changing and like other industries are slowly being disrupted

  • FInTech Startups

  • Mobile Operators

  • Traditional players like banks, changing too slowly but are waking up

  • Client and products are being disrupted

  • Payments, but are hindered but too much innovation

  • Trade, but similar to 2000/2001 b2b marketplaces

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Ubuntu Linux on the desktop in the Enterprise

2006

In 2006 I was the Head of Global Banking Technology and CTO for Thailand at GE Capital. Part of my job was — and still is — to understand different technologies and see how these could be used in a corporate context.

One question was/is always around optimizing and driving productivity around the desktop. Is there a better way for users? Can we increase the productivity for provisioning and users? Can we better reuse older hardware or adopt new technologies differently?

I tried to install Ubuntu Linux on my work Laptop. At the time, it was more difficult than nowadays, as many hardware vendors produce drivers only for MS Windows. Yet it did work and was rather refreshing. In effect all features worked almost out of the Box: Integration into Active Directory, E-Mail App linking into Exchange, and OpenOffice as productivity suit.

This followed by segmenting the user base across the firm and based upon the categorization (low end, medium, and power users), we would deploy OpenOffice (free and open source productivity suit), to all users with limited users. We had low end users, who would only get a thin client or older hardware with thin operating systems like Linux, Wyse, etc. on it. The user would use all applications through a web browser – inclusive email, if any were given.

Naturally, we would create local language documentation and online training. This was a relatively easy and very effective way of ‘upgrading’ users. Stability of desktops, security threats, and updates were all easier to do – customer image generation was also very easy to setup.

2015

At Cisco Systems, one can choose between Windows, MacOS, or Linux OS. Self service support would be given based on Wiki’s and user groups. It worked very successful, as I was able to see a lot of staff adopting MacOS in the self service mode, even staff not familiar with tools and configurations.

Right now, I am still experimenting!

I am using Macintosh equally at home – MacMini and a MacBookPro. MacOS has a wide range of applications and I prefer using Apple’s Office Suite – iWorks (Pages, Numbers, Keynote) over MS Office, as it also integrates well with my iPad and iPhone.

On top, I am using a PC with Ubuntu Desktop Linux installed, to have a playground for multiple applications and better understanding of technologies — visualizations, Big Data, Big Analytics, etc.

Across the different technologies areas, a lot of technology innovation comes out of the open source world (Java, Service, Big Data, Operating Systems, etc.) and are often absorbed by software firms. From that perspective it is good, to have an opportunity to try out these open source packages, as well as, reading up on the community pages. It gives deeper insights and allows for better business decisions (regardless whether these are circulating across open source or commercial source).

My key requirement is a sandbox like computer environment I can experience new technologies with it, to input into my professional life.

So I downloaded the Ubuntu Linux Operating System, followed an guide on the same web site to create a Bootable USB Drive — a small Windows app does this — and booted my Desktop with it. It took 20 Minutes and my Computer had Ubuntu installed and all working.

I actually like working on Ubuntu a lot. It is very fast and has a very good app store. All the application I need are free.

Key applications are Chrome Browser, Firefox, Skype, Spotify, Steam (the gaming platform), PyCharm (Pythong development environment), Twitter client, Picture tool, Visualisation tool (VirtualBox), Open Office/Libre Office free suite and integrated OS Tools (Picture Viewer, Chat, EMail, Movie player, etc.).

Cloud providers are having a set of tools, to allow integration with DropBox, Google Drive, and of course browser based access of Google Apps, and Apple’s iCloud (with Apple’s Office Apps in the cloud). Given that I am using privately Apple and Google Apps for a long time, I don’t have the migration issues with moving files or changing applications.

Business applications should either be browser based or run as apps on Android or iOS or all of this together. Linux runs on most Desktop and Laptop hardware. It is easy and efficient on old hardware. Integration into a mixed Microsoft, Apple, iOS, and Android environment is easy. Linux can integrate into the so called Microsoft Domain and Exchange servers and has Management tools.

I would highly recommend corporations to consider Linux on the Desktop and Laptop, to drive out cost and complexity.

A word on the Bring Your Own Desktop BYOD Strategies.

They often assume a Windows Desktop will be streamed via tools from a Service — a window on your desktop which in effect acts as a remote sandbox for business applications. For the amount of money that takes, I would strongly feel a Google Apps, OpenOffice, and Browser access combo would drive more efficiency for less cost.

Just giving a different point of view.

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Digitization strategy defines business models

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The time has come where companies need to decide what they want to be, driving unique sales propositions, by customizing they Marketing, PR, and Technology or outsource with the focus on providing commodity (or at risk of being) products! A hackthon in a corporation who is almost fully outsourced is a mere marketing trick, to look good in the media, but it doesn’t provide a unique ability to drive unique digital products at speed. A hackthon in a corporation who is almost fully outsourced is a mere marketing trick, to look good in the media, but it doesn’t provide a unique ability to drive unique digital products at speed. 

When consider business strategies and models, there is a new question now: What is the approach to digitization and technology?  

The answer will lead to a different operational framework of the company. Select the cage you want to live in! 

Once the fundamental approach has been selected and invested in, it is very costly and time consuming to drive an opposing strategy. I have seen small and big companies being driven into bankruptcy in the US, Thailand, or Singapore in their attempts to significantly alter the model. 

How competitive do we want to be? 

How unique do we want to be? 

How much investment is it worth to us? 

How much effort and restructuring are we ready to do? 

What is commodity for me?


Business Models and the ability for corporates to evolve, are dependent by the technology approach they choose.

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Many traditional companies and startups are stumbling through their technology choices, often in reaction to perceived short term needs, causing issues downstream when market pressures are changing. A Board of Directors needs to choose their technology approach, based upon their business model of the company. Changing quadrants as outlined above will take time, possibly many years and has far reaching impact on skills, people, processes, and cost. 

Do I want the same digital platforms as others or one others could equally well buy versus a unique technical capability? The answer will allow you to decide the level of differentiation, but also carry dependencies. Acquiring a certain set of tools and services will make you dependent on a delivery model limiting flexibility, cost, and time to market for your organization. 

There are further dependencies on hiring and managing talent, revising your decisions, office space, managing and sourcing talents, etc. Typically organization generate a framework for all corporate technology services and breaks down this large questions into segments, to decide in which specific domain the question should be answered how! 

In-house 

Google and Facebook have developed their own servers, perfectly integrating into the operating system, administrative and application layers-‘Data centre health’ with little people involvement. They also adopt and sharing open source and free software, where it is in to the benefit of their own business model – Operating System and Data store technologies benefits of having a bigger community to evolve standard functions creates better quality commodity functions. This approach requires developing internally deep skills and ongoing investment to develop an architecture, a multi-year road map, and understanding the delivery methods. It less the time of size of teams, but the depth one can attract. 

Low customization and low vendor quadrant 

Are they using technology at all? Is it a bank? Start thinking about your technology adoption! Think about a motorsai driver in a Soi, who might never have thought about a smart phone. Now he can a.) afford it and b.) can use the app to maximize to assign jobs all over the city to him = profits. Technology is key for everyone. 

Outsourced 

Fully outsourced data centers and applications, such as HR, finance, collaboration, Email, ERP or other business apps (e.g., credit card, OSS, BSS). With in the framework vendors could customized the setup of existing products and services. Clearly, a large portion of the responsibility of operating in budget, time, and quality would relate to the service and product providers the company selected. However, you inherit the properties of each provider you choose. Cost, time to market, and ability to customize is within the framework you decide. AWS can add multiple features to their cloud platform every week.

The vendor scene is also changing.

Innovation happens in open source and communities, vendors are driven towards services and consultants often build capabilities around products. Buy-ecosystems increasingly prices towards commodity, but open source platforms are used for high end skills and vertical products. Both customers and vendors are having the same challenges in sourcing for the skills. Often this model uses commodity services skills. High end and in-depth skills are difficult to integrate in such a model. Managing and delivery products based upon outsourcing or 3rd parodist and services, can be as challenging as in-house deliveries of the such features. These are just different models. In traditional corporates many technology professionals are used to the buy model. In the startup world many technologists are focusing on the custom build model. 

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I have seen corporates and startups with poor platforms requiring complete rework. Equally I have seen large corporates in the buy model, paying high price and getting low end skills from product and service vendors, in expanding even simple initiatives into annual turn around times. Cloud vendors are breaking out of this paradigm, as they are providing commodity platforms – being the same for everyone – and are increasing quality. Here is a good game for buyer’s need to address commodity products. 

Opinions are my own! 

aw@axelwinter.comwww.axelwinter.com

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