Riding the avalanche: Making new applications accessible

Each week we ask high-profile technology decision-makers three questions.

Image caption David Jacobs is wrestling with making the avalanche of new applications accessible

This week it's David Jacobs, chief technology officer (CTO), broadband, cable and satellite division, Amdocs.

Amdocs is is a provider of customer experience systems - software and services for billing, customer relationship management (CRM), and operations support systems (OSS) among other things.

The Missouri-based company had revenues of approximately $3bn in 2010. Amdocs employs more than 19,000 people and serves customers in over 60 countries worldwide.

What's your biggest technology problem right now?

I see it as operationalising the next wave of technology.

Let me try and explain what I mean by that. There's a lot of new things happening. Growth in the number of new applications - for example games or content - is accelerating like crazy.

But ironically the systems that service providers and customers use that manage all of this are really struggling to keep up. So much of what we're focusing on as Amdocs is how the heck are we going to manage this lifecycle.

We've all understood or read various magazines or books about this idea that the rate of change is accelerating. Well the great example of where this rate of change is accelerating is in telecommunications, or the connected world in which we all live.

Being able to cope with that is not just a function of "hey, here's a new capability". It's actually got to be manageable or accessible within our everyday life.

That's probably one of the key areas we're focusing on right now. How on earth do we help our customers, our service providers and our consumers manage this avalanche of new stuff?

What's the next big tech thing in your industry?

The next big tech thing is probably the seamless experience of anything anywhere, in other words the ability to purchase and to consume - securely - any kind of service or any kind of content on lots of difference devices in any location.

So you can be anywhere in the world, in any physical location, and you will be able to get a piece of information, application or service.

Often we refer to these ideas as "mega-trends" - what's really happening. And we've broken it down into three areas.

One is about how consumption behaviour is changing.

There used to be a time when we were very passive. We would sit back in an armchair to watch TV, or go to the movies and just have stuff thrown at us.

Now, as individuals, we're far more active in choosing what we want to consume.

The other element is this ubiquity of connectedness; IT is everywhere so you can get it whenever you want - certainly in more advanced countries.

And I suppose the biggest democratisation is that stuff is more affordable than it ever was. Connected consumer electronics are reasonably cheap and affordable these days.

Everything from a game console to a phone or a tablet. Considering the engineering that went into it, it's all relatively cheap.

What's the biggest technology mistake you've ever made - either at work or in your own life?

This is probably embarrassing. So I think I'd sum it up with all things have a time and a place, and put it in that context.

At a company I started we developed many systems to allow individuals to automatically sign up to the internet in real time and be able to consume services. We're going back quite some time.

We were so excited about what we'd created that we'd missed the blindingly obvious thing in front of us.

No one was connected yet. And what everyone really wanted to do was work out ways to connect. And we thought it was so easy for anyone to do that that it was trivial, and we focused on the bit of all these other exciting elements about these user-based services.

And we really missed the point. Our customers at the time really wanted us just to focus on getting connected. It was a bit embarrassing, because it's so obvious.

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