Anne Lapkin

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Anne Lapkin
Research VP
7 years at Gartner
25 years IT industry

Anne Lapkin is a research vice president in Gartner Research, where she provides clients with advice on the alignment of technology solutions with business goals. She is an expert in the development… Read Full Bio

Back Again, From the Brink

by Anne Lapkin  |  February 10, 2010  |  6 Comments

I had only started this blogging thing when I was distracted by a personal tragedy – my husband was killed in a plane crash at the end of last year.

So while I had come to the Gartner Blogger Network with the best of intentions, I got a bit side tracked.  Now that I am back at work and hurling myself once again into the maelstrom of peer review, client inquiry and exciting new research areas, I find myself thinking more and more “I should blog about that”.  So here i am.

Where goest thou, context?

We’ve been wrestling over the last few weeks with the shape of our context aware computing agenda for 2010.  I had the good fortune to lead or moderate several of the context aware research sessions, which were very well attended and very lively.  One of the very interesting discussions was about the evolution of the context eco-system -  shorthanded by my colleague Nick Jones (silver tongued devil that he is…) as “Who will own your contextual soul in 2020?”  Among the scenarios that were postulated were:

  • the super-player walled gardens, in which people will align themselves with one major context provider like Google, or Nokia or Microsoft
  • the coalition of equals, where context information is freely shared across boundaries, the way flight information is shared in the airline reservation network.

I don’t think the answer is one or the other – they are a continuum.  After all, the airline reservations networks were not always interconnected.  They used to be a collection of walled gardens.  They became a coalition of equals when it was economically necessary for them to be.  And this pattern has repeated throughout history. POSC came about because no single oil company could afford to explore and exploit by themselves.  And my personal feeling is there will be no real progress on universal health records until it becomes an economic necessity, but that’s another post – I digress.

So what we’ll see in the short term is the Googles and the Nokias and the China Telcomms and the Apples competing to bind individuals by managing their context information in a proprietary fashion. The majoir factor will be your level of trust in your provider. That’s in the consumer space.  In the enterprise space, the big players will probably be Microsoft and Cisco.

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Over time, end user pressure will force the players to open their walled gardens and coalitions will ensue, but that will take time.

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A funny thing happened on my way off the podium…

by Anne Lapkin  |  October 16, 2009  |  7 Comments

Last week I was at the Gartner EA Summit in Orlando (a really nice event with a really good group of delegates, but that’s another post).  My last pitch was entitled “Enterprise Architects Beware: The Skills That Got You Here Won’t Take You Forward”.  The premise of the pitch is that the most important skills for an architect have nothing to do with knowledge of technology, but are rather the communications, facilitation and interpersonal skills that allow architects to bring together diverse groups of stakeholders with diverse perspectives and persuade them to move forward in a common direction.

I feel quite strongly about this, as I have known many architects who were great technologists, but fell short in the communication department.  And they were less successful (or not at all successful) as a result. 

Anyhow, as I was leaving the session room, my iPhone (yes, I finally broke down and got one – and that, too,  is another post) blipped.  It was an email from a colleague of mine in the UK.  Evidently, one of the people in my session knows my colleague, and he so vehemently disagreed with what I said that he was moved to write my colleague immediately.

This gentleman’s contention is that all of the soft skills that we advocate so strongly are “alchemy” and while they are seductive to the business (spinning dross into gold is always attractive), the day will ultimately be won by hard science.

Now I’m really sorry that this guy didn’t come up to the podium and engage me directly, because I’m not sure I understand why these two things are in opposition.  Of course you need to be able to make architecturally sound decisions, but you need two other things – you need to be able to express why the decisions you are making are the right decisions to move the business strategy forward, and you need to be able to persuade people to your point of view.

In any environment where there are human beings (and enterprises are full of those, sadly) there is self interest. And anywhere there is self interest, it’s not enough just to be right. You also have to be persuasive – and that’s where the soft skills come in.

Another point, of course, is that it is impossible for you to be the absolute best technologist in every arena, so you’re going to have to rely on the expertise of others in order to make the right decisions.  Interpersonal skills, again, are what help you to leverage the knowledge of other individuals, experts in their specific fields, in the pursuit of the right architecture for the enterprise.

I think that one of the reasons that we stress the soft skills as much as we do is that technologists tend not to recognize how important they are.  I have seen many failing EA programs and so have my colleagues.  I cannot think of a single instance (either in my own experience or that of any body else on the Gartner team) where an EA program failed because it was filled with people who had excellent soft skills, but were not good technologists.  We have all seen many programs failed because they were staffed by good technologists without good interpersonal skills.

Anyhow, I’ve invited the guy who so disagreed with my session to have a conversation. I hope he takes me up on it. And of course, anyone else who wants to discuss this is welcome to reach out to me too.

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Once more into the breach

by Anne Lapkin  |  October 8, 2009  |  5 Comments

I’ve avoided getting into the blogging crunch up till now, as I wasn’t sure that I would be able to devote the time to make a really credible showing, but some things that have happened recently have changed my mind.

 

Or maybe it’s just that I have thoughts that I want to share with the broader group.  So, expect to see some musings on the evolution of context aware computing, the changing role of the enterprise architect and anything else that occurs to me.

 

Right now I’m at the EA Summit in Orlando, and it’s really hard to concentrate on anything when you’re at a show – so I probably won’t get back to this until sometime next week – see you then.

 

anne

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