Sunday, 14 March 2010

Some thoughts on computing

A friend called me to say that his daughter was having an interview with IBM for an industrial year placement and did I have any advice that I could give. This set me thinking about all the changes that there have been in business computing.

I think that there have been different "waves" of computing from a business perspective. Scientific and Technical is slightly different in that modern computing is allowing them to simulate experiments and field trials so that when they have to do actual real life studies they have a better idea of what the results will show - it stops them (to an extent) going down blind alleys. I hesitate to use the example of the Met Office as they seem to be getting things wrongs in spectacular fashion recently; I guess that this is all down to th models they use rather than the computers they use and the thought that they are politically motivated to follow one stream of thinking! From a business perspective:
  1. The first wave was replacing repetitive tasks; payroll is an obvious example.
  2. Then there was the rise of databases and data mining; a good example is the analysis of loyalty card data. Supermarkets could work out what customers bought together so that could layout stores to encourage buying patterns
  3. Business process automation; work-flows so that an order can be automatically tracked for receipt to dispatch is one example. Scanning of insurance claims and the automated processing of claims is another
  4. Then came the internet and the rise of easier communication - the "paperless" office
  5. The current waves in business today are "Web 2"; business being transacted over the internet, mobile computing and all that "stuff". 
  6. The other wave is business analytics which is the joining together of various pieces of information to help predict external opportunities and threats to a business. You can read about this here.
  7. The other really exciting event is the Smarter Planet initiative that IBM is spearheading there are some really innovative ideas here. Andy, the guy mentioned in the article, is one of those people with a brain the size of the planet who also has the ability to put his complex ideas across in an easily understandable form. even I manage to grasp them when he is explaining them! (Note; This article seems to have vanished from the Sunday Times website, they probably only keep them up for a week. Look here instead )
  8. The trend within IBM is how hardware revenues are declining as a percentage of IBM's total revenue. You can read about that here
There are many exciting things happening, my problem as I get older is trying to keep up with them. I sometimes think that I am morphing into Boxer in Animal Farm, always harping on about the old days as along with all the technological changes IBM is changing as a place to work in. I guess that over the past twenty six years all companies have changed, not always for the better I am afraid. Still folks like Andy will ensure that we never run out of ideas.


  1. When I left university in 1969 I was jobless and penniless and had no clear idea what it was I wanted to do. So I applied for many jobs and one of the places that I applied to was IBM as a trainee systems analyst. I was interviewed by a 'panel' of three of four blokes who asked me to walk over to a chalkboard o the wall, write 1969 at top and 1979 at the bottom, and draw a diagram as to how I would like my career to proceed over that ten year span. Having no clearer idea, I just drew an arrow from 1969 to 1979 and said "I just hope I get there".
    They did not offer me a position.

  2. Not too many IBMers think of a ten year career progression today!