EDS’s futurist predicts greater personalization

EDS spends all year trying to meet the needs of its IT services clients. It’s up to Jeff Wacker to figure out what their needs will be next year.

As vice-president and CIO within EDS’s Global Industry Solutions, Wacker also wears the hat of a futurist and EDS Fellow, one of the firm’s stable of highly experienced consultants. EDS Fellows must have a track record of at least 24 years implementing technology products and services. Right now there are 29 of them. 

This week the EDS Fellows released a list of top trends that they believe will drive IT-enabled change within corporate enterprises in 2007. ITBusiness.ca spoke with Wacker via telephone to discuss them in more detail.


ITBusiness.ca: EDS is predicting growth in the personalization of electronic services. What do you mean by that?

Jeff Wacker: We’re finally getting people onboard with a comfort level around personalization. Now in Canada, you guys are still a little bit behind the rest of North America in being comfortable with giving away some personalized information and trading it for convenience, for price breaks and all those types of things. Even in Canada, though, you’re starting to see a recognition that even if you keep everything that you have about you personal, close to the vest, you won’t be able to partake in a lot of things. The other aspect of it is a lot of what you are doing are revealing things about you whether you like it or not. For example, when eBay tracks your Mac address on your PC – and your PC is increasingly “your” PC, it’s not a shared PC – they already know a lot about what you do on Google, and that reflects a larger degree of understanding about you and is starting to be used to provide you with offers, with services, with capabilities that are more attuned to you. That’s one that is really going to take off in 2007, especially in the financial area, but in virtually any area where you have customer relationship management from a business to an individual, they’re going to be leveraging more and more of what you do as an indicator of who you are. 

ITB: How does that differ from the way companies have been managing CRM so far?

JW: CRM started out with gross or core segmentation of the marketplace. It’s gotten finer and finer, but now it’s a little bit like going from discontinuous to continuous (data). All of a sudden we’re going from a marketplace of a few to a marketplace of one. That is a major shift, because when you get down to knowing a lot about an individual, you can imagine that the amount of information explodes, and the mechanism by which you categorize what you are going to do with this individual also changes. I was just with a major cruise line on Friday and we were talking about being able to run on the ship a continuous simulation being fed by real-time events that are occurring with the passengers as the passengers take advantage of all the offers – going for an off-shore excursion, buying something in the gift shop, showing up in the casino – all those different things. Basically we’d be looking for a pattern of me trying to provide me the optimal cruise experience. That means doing a simulation on a level of one, not on 20 classes of individuals but on a level of one. And therefore if I have 1,000 people on a ship, I’d have 1,000 people being simulated on that experience.

ITB: How prepared is the industry to offer the kind of security and privacy that would go along with that level of personalization?

JW: By opening it up to people to let them know what is happening and to control it – again, privacy is a matter of control. If you can give people the ability to control it and respect that, all of a sudden I am opening up all the individual privacy aspects as well. I follow a company here in Mountain View, it’s called Jambo. Jambo is essentially a profile you fill out so that any time you go to a conference or a cruise you basically have provided the information that allows them to match you with somebody who has similar interests, somebody you went to your home town or high school with you. They bring in things like MySpace and your friend list in order to make those connections. But the key thing about Jambo that is really interesting is they have a privacy slider. It goes all the way from “I’m working now in private, don’t detect me, don’t do anything,” all the way to, “I’m entirely open, don’t ask me, start giving me the offers as they emerge,” and everything in between. If we get down to an individual, we can also get down to an individual’s privacy. 

ITB: Along with control issues, though, there are trust issues around privacy. How will we create a culture of trust that people will believe they’re in control?

JW: Trust, of course, is something that’s built up over time. That’s all you can do. Either that, or you put in a large bond which says, “If I ever violate your trust, the bond is broken,” which some companies are doing. Over time, people accommodate the lesser amount of privacy that invades our space. Let’s face it: it’s happening all the time whether you like it or not. The amount of information that can be gathered about you simply by virtue of you carrying an electronic device, and you can’t get around without having a cell phone type of device – that’ s given. The amount of privacy you give up when you sign up for a driver’s licence or a credit card or everything else – the trust has to be built up and maintained.

ITB: How much of this personalization going to be driven by mobile computing?

JW: Where IT is most relevant is out there in the edge. The mobility aspects of it are especially around the mobile workers and what you can do with the mobile devices. The edge includes all those things that make us mobile, but it also includes the sensors, the microphones, the digital CCD cameras, all those different kinds of things that are happening beyond that mobile device that you’ll be carrying around. We also see a maturing of the current business processes around those mobile devices simply because of the limitations of the devices. We see that there will be some major changes and a new resurgance of growth in that mobility areas within the next couple of years. When we start looking about 2009, 2010, we see another real great growth of the mobile-everything device, and that will be fueled because a lot of the breakthroughs in the nanotechnology for battery power.

ITB: How granular will some of the applications behind these services become?

JW: Well, monolithic means indivisible, not being able to be broken into smaller parts. When you think about SAP of every years ago, when you bought SAP, you got SAP. You had to accommodate it. Now you are seeing SAP, Oralce and everybody who has these large ERP systems, taking it to the SOA and therefore getting flexibility about the components about that end result. That end result might still be monolithic because it runs your enterprise, but the opportunity is to have customization within that does not violate the integrity of the whole. The ERP vendors have understood for a long time that you can’t dictate to the market how people want to do things, but you still want to have the consistency of an ERP system that says it will work when you put it in but still be able to change it based on, for example, how EDS wants to run its HR, or how Bell Canada wants to run its HR. It’s a different kind of a thing, and by building in this granularity within what was monolithic, they still have a monolithic outcome, but how they get it is now flexible and agile.

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