Month: April 2019

The Practical Futurist – or – Somebody’s Got to Go First

The Practical Futurist – or – Somebody’s Got to Go First

Do you have a hard problem to solve for your organization? Do you know, deep in your bones, that the solution requires a new approach, something nobody at your firm has done before – a Distributed Ledger (aka Blockchain), a Graph Database, a cloud-based Software Factory? Or something else?

Be brave. Blaze the trail. But beware.

I’ve been fortunate to initiate or build a number of financial services systems that demonstrated, sometimes too early, the benefits of brand-new technology to solve hard problems. There’s a partial list, below, for those who have interest. [1]

I’ve also been lucky during my computing career to work with business colleagues who weren’t afraid to blaze a trail. These innovators understood the risks of being a first mover; their project might fail, or it might take more time or money than planned. And yet, they would forge ahead. Their motives? Profit, sometimes fame, and perhaps an IPO.

There are lots of articles and books out there on innovation, but there’s no substitute for doing it.

And so, if you have a hard business problem, it’s likely that there’s an innovation solution set that can be smaller, faster, and cheaper than a traditional approach. Better yet, your solution may offer the business a new competitive advantage.

You can find a seat at the innovation table, regardless of your role: Project Manager, Business Analyst, Coder, Quality Assurance, DevOps, Configuration Management, amongst others. How can you take this path?

  • Team up with your business visionaries (with money) and best techies. Brainstorm. Then do your homework on the solution architecture and approach.
  • Campaign up front for the optimal solution set, including software tools, compute power, and most critically, technical talent. If you cannot optimize this mix, don’t give up. Instead, document the incremental risks, and move ahead if it makes sense.
  • Choose vendors who will invest in that functional demo – this is the conversation starter, the basis of your business case for building a bigger version.
  • Negotiate a “Get out of Jail Free Card.” Failure is likely when you go first. Let your sponsors know when you are on the far leading, maybe bleeding edge, and that they need to share the risk.
  • Once you’ve got your solution working, participate in industry events and standards bodies to help grow the market for your toolset. Your best support for a new technology is a large installed base. The more users, the more bugs somebody else will find.

[1] A partial list of Innovation Solution Sets that I initiated, either as a vendor, employee, or consultant, and where they ended up (Demo, Production):

1993 – Sun Server 2000 (SPARC)- Parallelized Monte Carlo simulation for Model based Derivatives pricing. Demo/Prduction

1995-6 – Illustra Time Series Datablade – Equities Analytics Research. Production

1999 – Service Oriented Architecture using Java, Smart Sockets, with consultants from Random Walk – Global Equities Portfolio Trading. Production

2004 – Gemfire, a distributed cache, for Prime Broker Risk processing. Production

2009 – Aleri CEP (complex event processing) and custom code for Real Time Global Derivatives Exposure. Demo

2012 – VMware – Nanotrader vFabric Reference Architecture,
a financial trading platform for the cloud. Demo

2017 – Blockchain for Continuous National Bank Deposits Reporting. Demo