RIP to Business Legends Leila Janah and Clayton Christensen

On January 23, 2020, the business world lost two of its biggest stars: Leila Janah and Clayton Christensen. Both of them were personal inspirations to me both in their ability to execute on big ideas and to make a real difference in the world by living up to the cliche of “doing well by doing good.”

Leila Janah passed away on January 23rd, 2020 at the age of 37. She was an unstoppable force in fighting global poverty through her organizations of Samasource, LXMI, and Samaschool. From our Amalgam Insights’ perspective, the work that Samasource did in training AI data for many of the world’s biggest enterprises made Samasource an important company to watch.

But even more importantly was how Samasource conducted this AI data training. Samasource has employed people across India, Kenya, Uganda, Haiti, Pakistan, Ghana, and South Africa through what is now called impact sourcing where workers are trained to a job and paid a living wage with the goal of rising above poverty. The company has hired and trained thousands of people since its founding in 2008 and has a global staff of 2,900.

In running Samasource, Janah both lifted up thousands of people and created an organization that was seen as a legitimate growth business. In November 2019, Samasource raised a $14.8 million A round to increase growth at a time when trusted AI data is more important than ever. Janah was a pioneer in simultaneously evolving the concept of managing AI data while creating a massively successful growth company and creating change in emerging markets.

RIP Leila Janah. Thank you for making a difference.

Clayton Christensen passed away on January 23rd, 2020 at the age of 67. He obviously needs no introduction in the business world as he has been a guiding light in the business world for decades. His 1997 book The Innovator’s Dilemma is the most important business book of recent times and Christensen is in the pantheon of great business authors along with the likes of Benjamin Graham, Dale Carnegie, W. Edwards Deming, Peter Drucker, and Michael Porter.

Christensen coined the term of “Disruptive Innovation,” which described how products and services that could be seen as inferior, tangential, and more accessible than their dominant status quo market equivalents could eventually usurp leading market positions over time. Although Christensen could have sat on his laurels and simply used his Innovator’s Dilemma work for the next 20+ years, Christensen was always seeking to improve and perfect his work on “disruptive innovation” and to push back against the breathless hype of the phrase he was associated with.

Christensen’s ability to translate his theories and work into tangible action that helped transform the likes of Apple, Intel, Netflix, and practically every company that has successfully evolved or fended off new competitors. Christensen’s work made every company more aware of its need to serve customer needs, disrupt as needed to match customer preferences, and identify “jobs to be done.”

RIP Clayton Christensen. Thank you for being a brilliant thinker and an even better person.

5 MegaThemes for the 2020s That Will Transform IT

2020s Tech MegaTrends

As we get ready for 2020, Amalgam Insights is here to prepare companies for the future.  In the past few weeks, we’ve been posting insights on what to look for in 2020 with posts including: Nine Big Trends for Technology Expense Management in 2020 AI on AI – 8 AI Predictions for the Data Savvy…

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Looking at Microservices, Containers, and Kubernetes with 2020 Vision

Some years are easy to predict than others. Stability in a market makes tracing the trend line much easier. 2020 looks to be that kind of year for the migration to microservices: stable with steady progression toward mainstream acceptance.

There is little doubt that IT organizations are moving toward microservices architectures. Microservices, which deconstruct applications into many small parts, removes much of the friction that is common in n-Tier applications when it comes to development velocity. The added resiliency and scalability of microservices in a distributed system are also highly desirable. These attributes promote better business agility, allowing IT to respond to business needs more quickly and with less disruption while helping to ensure that customers have the best experience possible.

Little in this upcoming year seems disruptive or radical; That big changes have already occurred. Instead, this is a year for building out and consolidating; Moving past the “what” and “why” and into the “how” and “do”.

Kubernetes will be top of mind to IT in the coming year. From its roots as a humble container orchestrator – one of many in the market – Kubernetes has evolved into a platform for deploying microservices into container clusters. There is more work to do with Kubernetes, especially to help autoscale clusters, but it is now a solid base on which to build modern applications.

No one should delude themselves into thinking that microservices, containers, and Kubernetes are mainstream yet. The vast majority of applications are still based on n-Tier design deployed to VMs. That’s fine for a lot of applications but businesses know that it’s not enough going forward. We’ve already seen more traditional companies begin to adopt microservices for at least some portion of their applications. This trend will accelerate in the upcoming year. At some point, microservices and containers will become the default architecture for enterprise applications. That’s a few years from now but we’ve already on the path.

From a vendor perspective, all the biggest companies are now in the Kubernetes market with at least a plain vanilla Kubernetes offering. This includes HPE and Cisco in addition to the companies that have been selling Kubernetes all along, especially IBM/Red Hat, Canonical, Google, AWS, VMWare/Pivotal, and Microsoft. The trick for these companies will be to add enough unique value that their offerings don’t appear generic. Leveraging traditional strengths, such as storage for HPE, networking for Cisco, and Java for Red Hat and VMWare/Pivotal, are the key to standing out in the market.

The entry of the giants in the Kubernetes space will pose challenges to the smaller vendors such as Mirantis and Rancher. With more than 30 Kubernetes vendors in the market, consolidation and loss is inevitable. There’s plenty of value in the smaller firms but it will be too easy for them to get trampled underfoot.

Expect M&A activity in the Kubernetes space as bigger companies acquihire or round out their portfolios. Kubernetes is now a big vendor market and the market dynamics favor them.

If there is a big danger sign on the horizon, it’s those traditional n-Tier applications that are still in production. At some point, IT will get around to thinking beyond the shiny new greenfield applications and want to migrate the older ones. Since these apps are based on radically different architectures, that won’t be easy. There just aren’t the tools to do this migration well. In short, it’s going to be a lot of work. It’s a hard sell to say that the only choices are either expensive migration projects (on top of all that digital transformation money that’s already been spent) or continuing to support and update applications that no longer meet business needs. Replatforming, or deploying the old parts to the new container platform, will provide less ROI and less value overall. The industry will need another solution.

This may be an opportunity to use all that fancy AI technology that vendors have been investing in to create software to break down an old app into a container cluster. In any event, the migration issue will be a drag on the market in 2020 as IT waits for solutions to a nearly intractable problem.

2020 is the year of the microservice architecture.

Even if that seems too dramatic, it’s not unreasonable to expect that there will be significant growth and acceleration in the deployment of Kubernetes-based microservices applications. The market has already begun the process of maturation as it adapts to the needs of larger, mainstream, corporations with more stringent requirements. The smart move is to follow that trend line.

Why Technology Business Management and Technology Expense Management Are Misaligned

(Note: This presentation is also available in a presentation format on Slideshare)

One of the most frequent questions Amalgam Insights receives is how Technology Business Management and Technology Expense Management are related to each other. And what do these topics have to do with the new phrase of “FinOps,” that is starting to appear? Amalgam’s perspective is definitely different.

Why FinOps is a Misnomer
Continue reading “Why Technology Business Management and Technology Expense Management Are Misaligned”

Nine Big Trends for Technology Expense Management in 2020

What are the key IT cost trends that you need to be aware of in 2020? In case you missed my webinars with MDSL yesterday, you can get a short summary right here.

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Developing a Practical Model for Ethical AI in the Business World: Stage 3 – Operational Deployment

In this blog post series, Amalgam Insights is providing a practical model for businesses to plan the ethical governance of their AI projects. To read the introduction, click here. To read about Stage 1: Executive Design, click here To read about Stage 2: Technical Development, click here. This blog focuses on Operational Deployment, the third of…

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AI on AI – 8 Predictions for the Data Savvy Pro

When we started Amalgam Insights, we oh-so-cleverly chose the AI initials with the understanding that artificial intelligence (the other AI…), data science, machine learning, programmatic automation, augmented analytics, and neural inputs would lead to the greatest advances in technology. At the same time, we sought to provide practical guidance for companies seeking to bridge the…

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Developing a Practical Model for Ethical AI in the Business World: Stage 2 – Technical Development

In this blog post series, Amalgam Insights is providing a practical model for businesses to plan the ethical governance of their AI projects. To read the introduction, click here. To read about Stage 1: Executive Design, click here This blog focuses on Technical Development, the second of the Three Keys to Ethical AI described in the…

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Developing a Practical Model for Ethical AI in the Business World: Stage I – Executive Design

In this blog post series, Amalgam Insights is providing a practical model for businesses to plan the ethical governance of their AI projects. To read the introduction, click here. This blog focuses on Executive Design, the first of the Three Keys to Ethical AI introduced in the last blog. Stage I: Executive Design As a…

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Developing a Practical Model for Ethical AI in the Business World: Introduction

As we head into 2020, the concept of “AI (Artificial Intelligence) for Good” is becoming an increasingly common phrase. Individuals and organizations with AI skillsets (including data management, data integration, statistical analysis, machine learning, algorithmic model development, and application deployment skills) have effort into pursuing ethical AI efforts.

Amalgam Insights believes that these efforts have largely been piecemeal and inadequate to meet common-sense definitions for companies to effectively state that they are pursuing, documenting, and practicing true ethical AI because of the breadth and potential repercussions of AI on business outcomes. This is not due to a lack of interest, but based on a couple of key considerations. First, AI is a relatively new capability in the enterprise IT portfolio that often lacks formal practices and guidelines and has been managed as a “skunkworks” or experimental project. Second, businesses have not seen AI as a business practice, but as a purely technical practice and made a number of assumptions in skipping to the technical development that would typically not have been made for more mature technical capabilities and projects.

In the past, Amalgam Insights has provided frameworks to help organizations take the next step to AI through our BI to AI progression.

Figure 1: Amalgam’s Framework from BI to AI

 

 

 

To pursue a more ethical model of AI, Amalgam Insights believes that AI efforts need to be analyzed through three key lenses:

  • Executive Design
  • Technical Development
  • Operational Deployment

Figure 2: Amalgam’s Three Key Areas for Ethical AI

In each of these areas, businesses must ask the right questions and adequately prepare for the deployment of ethical AI. In this framework, AI is not just a set of machine learning algorithms to be utilized, but an enabler to effectively augment problem-solving for appropriate challenges.

Over the next week, Amalgam Insights will explore 12 areas of bias across these three categories with the goal of developing a straightforward framework that companies can use to guide their AI initiatives and take a structured approach to enforcing a consistent set of ethical guidelines to support governance across the executive, technical, and operational aspects of initiating, developing, and deploying AI.

In our next blog, we will explore Executive Design with a focus on the five key questions that an executive must consider as they start considering the use of AI within their enterprise.