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Knowledge & Information Technology
No. 275 - 2 November 2020
Capability Mapping and the IT Portfolio
Serge Thorn just wrote for the Cutter Consortium an interesting short "advisor" piece entitled "Tuning into the IT Landscape Using Business Capability Modeling." Ignore the hard-to-understand title (what the heck does it mean to "tune into a landscape"? Cutter's editors are usually careful to avoid this sort of language). What we're talking about here is a core piece (perhaps the core piece) of business architecture, namely drawing the capability map of the enterprise, and how this allows the practitioner to evaluate the portfolio of IT systems and applications in order to rationalize it.

We never let an opportunity to critique go to waste, so here are two things we would have done differently:
  • The first figure would lead you to believe that associating applications with capabilities is inherent to capability maps. This is not true. In fact, a capability is usually defined as "something that the enterprise needs to be able to do, regardless of how it is done." A capability might even be fulfilled by people with pen and paper or hammers and nails, not by systems. The author should have clearly separated the two steps.
  • Among the criteria to assess the value of an application (first bulleted list), the author did not ask two crucial questions: what is the annual total cost of this application (including software licenses, system administration, user training...)? And how many users does it serve? These two questions are often enough to expose opportunities to streamline the portfolio and reduce costs.
Upcoming Online Conferences
There are thousands of IT-related conferences each year. COVID-19 deprives us of the excitement of exhibit rooms, meeting old colleagues, remaking the world at the bar after each day's program, and visiting new cities. But if there is an upside, it is that we can attend online events by just paying the registration fee, which is usually much reduced since the organizers do not have to pay all the associated costs, and we don't have to go through the indignities of air travel. Here are four upcoming conferences of interest, organized by ACM of one of its Special Interest Groups::
  • SPLASH 2020 (Systems, Programming, Languages, and Applications: Software for Humanity), Nov. 15-20.
  • SC 2020 (SC stands for Supercomputing, but the official name is now the "International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage and Analysis" -- someone should be fired over this title, which is longer than the URL), Nov. 16-10.
  • SIGGRAPH Asia, Dec. 4-13. Expect a lot of dazzling computer animation work, at least if you're willing to be up during the Asia working day.
  • the joint ACM/IFIP Middleware Conference, Dec. 7-11
IT Ethics, Accountability and Data Protection
These topics are now completely intertwined, and have taken center stage of many discussions triggered by concerns as varied as autonomous vehicles and the notoriously fallible algorithms used by social media to determine which posts are objectionable. Here are some recent news on this broad and critical issue.

In September, IFIP (the International Federation for Information Processing) adopted a "Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct" derived from ACM's Code of Ethics. You can read the announcement here, but the Code itself is not available yet, apparently because IFIP wants to release it together with some case studies to help in its application.

A recent VIP forum on "transatlantic approaches on digital governance in the age of artificial intelligence" included a session on AI policy frameworks, during which three documents from the ACM Technology Policy Councils of US and Europe were mentioned:
Seen Recently...
"The emails and texts will stop after next Tuesday, I hope.
-- Mike Kavis (@madgreek65). You have to be living in the US to appreciate this.
"Oh good: all CS departments that are hiring are doing so almost exclusively in machine learning and cyber security. All other CS problems must be solved. And no other CS teaching must be done. That’s a relief. #phew."
-- Richard Paige (@richpaige)