There are some notable projects out there striving to deliver digital transformation. It’s pretty clear that the transformation journey will be long and bumpy. So I have been looking at new and exciting ways of enabling Transformation for Digital Service Providers. And I have been leaning on my experiences in my early career; when I’d decided to be an Astronaut!
I have always been fascinated with the universe. I was wondering if it had an end and what would it look like. And so I decided to find out. Luck was on my side. I was in my early 20’s, and the European Space Agency wanted astronauts. I knew I was very young. I was still in college, and I could drive a car, but I couldn’t fly a plane, and doubtless, there were other skills I lacked too. But I had passion, and I just had to go for it.
Sadly, it wasn’t to be. I was not selected. They thought I lacked experience. They were right of course, but I didn’t want to accept it at the time. Just like the space-ship that I wanted to travel upon, my dreams came splashing down to earth. But this did not stop me, and I still planned to explore the universe. And so I became an Astrophysicist. I figured that to have experience; I would need knowledge and understanding.
I earned my Ph.D. and became a Doctor of Astrophysics. To do that, I had to become a master of data; lots and lots of data. I hear people talk about ‘Big Data,’ but seriously when it comes to Astrophysics data isn’t big, its MASSIVE. There are several dozen large telescopes around the world. Just one of these telescopes requires a supercomputer rated at 100 petaflops. That is one hundred, thousand, million, million calculations per second. I think we can agree that when it gets to BIG data, it doesn’t get any bigger than Astrophysics (not yet) because the universe is so immense.
Just imagine that you went to the beach. Stooping down you pick up a handful of sand and then carefully count every grain. It would take ages, and it would be a large number. But then imagine you could count all the other grains of sand on that beach; it would be a huge number. And then try to imagine how many grains of sand there are on every beach in the world. If you can imagine this you are getting close to understanding the scale that Astrophysicists work in, and just how many stars there are in the sky.
And yet, despite all those stars, the universe is mostly empty. It is, after all – space! To measure distances, we talk in light years (the distance that light travels in a year). 1 Lightyear is a 9.5 Trillion km. At that speed, the light from the sun takes about 8 1/2 minutes to reach us. So what we see (if we were foolish enough to look at the sun) is the image of the sun, not as it is now, but how it was 8 ½ minutes ago. And when we look into the night sky, we are not seeing things how they are but how they were in the past – a long time in the past.
The stars we can see might not even exist anymore. Their light might have been traveling for billions of years before it reached us. Just think how far away they must be. And yet, if we could follow their light trail backwards. If we could go to that light source right now; would not find a single one of those billions of stars. Because we are not only seeing stars how they looked many years ago but also seeing where they were many years ago. And they won’t be there now, and not because of their orbit. They won’t be there because when they sent out that light beam, the universe was smaller than it is now. Everywhere we look the universe is expanding; fast. Distant galaxies are getting ever more distant.
As you can see the playground of an astronomer is enormous; the data is endless.
But what does this have to do with enabling Digital Service Providers and their epic journey called digital transformation? Well, I’ll get to that. I promise! But first, back to that endless data.
I learned that knowing everything is impossible. We all need data and the more of it we have the better (so long as we can handle it). But data is not the end goal. We want to understand why the data is how it is and be able to predict what will happen next. This is insight and we use it to do new things; to invent, innovate, compete.
Take for example the work of Galileo Galilei the Italian astronomer, mathematician, physicist, philosopher, and professor who made pioneering observations with long-lasting implications for us all. In July 1609, Galileo Galilei learned about a simple telescope built by Dutch eyeglass makers and soon developed one of his own. In August, he demonstrated it to some Venetian merchants, who saw its value for spotting ships and gave Galileo a salary to manufacture several of them.
On January 7, 1610, Galileo pointed a small telescope at Jupiter. What he observed changed how we understand the universe .. and it lead directly to new innovations. Galileo noticed what appeared to be four small “stars” near Jupiter.
Over the next few weeks, he watched the faint “stars.” They followed a pattern as they moved the sky, always keeping close to Jupiter.
Galileo observed this, recorded data night after night and then understood they were not stars at all .. but moons in orbit around Jupiter.
And if moons could orbit a planet, then perhaps the Earth could orbit the sun.
Galileo was not the first to propose this, but others had no visual observations, disproving models of the universe, revolving around the Earth.
Galileo was able to provide this last missing piece of the puzzle, and he gave visual confirmation that in fact, the earth is not center of everything. This enabled an entirely new view and use of the collected data. Galileo was able to pass on that understanding too. Using the absolute precision of the movement of Jupiter’s moons and their moon phases lead directly to more accurate timekeeping and more accurate maps.
Our world would not be the same without the maps that have shaped and changed our vision and understanding of our planet. However, our world may not be enough for us soon. If we are to survive as a species, we will need to move out from our planet, the next question is to where?.
That’s an astrophysics problem again and we have found some likely candidates, new places where we think we can flourish. However getting there is not going to be easy. The journey will take years, decades even. And the resources required to build the massive interstellar spaceships, complete with all the tools to terraform a habitable new world, would be enormous. Building such a craft may well consume much of earth’s dwindling resources, and take years. Even so, just a lucky few could travel. Rather than a voyage of adventure, a pioneering exploration, it would actually be one desperate last gamble.
“Hang on!!”, you might say, “Hollywood has found a way”. We’ve all seen movies where spaceships travel to distant galaxies in the blink of an eye. Wouldn’t it be an exciting if Hollywood was proven to be right? And big screen imagination may yet become a reality because there is a concept called ‘wormholes’ and it works like this. Imagine our universe is printed on a sheet of paper. You could draw routes and measure between each place. You could plot a journey from Earth to a distant star Vega. Even when the paper is bent the universe retains its form, the routes and distances are the same. Even if you fold the paper the same is true. But if we fold the paper and push a pencil from one place to another we connect one side of the universe to the other. This hole is a wormhole.
So If we were somewhere up on the top of the sheet (Earth) and we wanted to go Vega on the bottom, we have two options. We could go the long way around following the route we charted, or we could use the wormhole as a shortcut. A wormhole is a passage through space-time between two places, maybe even two separate universes.
If we could find and travel through wormholes, then we might travel like they do in movies. In small craft, at astonishing speed, never traveling faster than light, but getting further than light can travel at the same time. Wormholes may be theoretical today, but just think if we could use them. They would be like our super highways through the universe. But first we’d have to know what to look for and we don’t know what a wormhole really looks like. We don’t even know how to distinguish a Wormhole from its big bad relative a Black Hole! Visualising the difference between a Wormhole and a Black Hole could become our essential navigation tool to enable real space exploration.
And so, FINALLY, what does this have to do with Digital transformation?
Well, Digital Transformation is a major journey. Moving your business from CSP to DSP is not unlike moving to a new planet. Huge resources are used just to plan the journey. When the changes actually start, they are expected to take a long time, and it will be a be a bumpy ride! 84%1 of Digital Transformations fail to reach a satisfactory outcome. Some transformation projects will get part of the way, and others will be lost on the journey. These are not good odds – but it’s about survival, right?
[Reference 1 Profitable Brilliance: How Professional Service Firms Become Thought Leaders].
Everyone wants to survive, and thrive. All of the Telecoms providers of today are making their move, or planning set off very soon. It is about survival, and everyone has to transform. And the thought occurred to me, “what if someone found a Transformation Wormhole”? A way to zoom ahead with transformation. Not spending time planning, spending it moving.
What if there was a way get there quicker with LESS RISK and REDUCED COST?
What would a transformation wormhole look like, and how could we create it? THAT is the central question I am now involved in solving. I am no longer an Astrophysicist, I am head of research for a software company called, interestingly, Galileo Software. Our customers are all CSPs like you, and we are creating tools to help them on their transformation journey. We believe that Visualising data is key to accelerating transformation. Visualising data so that, like Galileo himself, you can see the full picture and use insights to innovate and advance. Using visualisation to engage, explain and communicate what’s happening to others in your teams and wider organisation.
We are taking huge datasets and combining them into real actionable data. This is not BI or AI. Both of these are focused on the data, and we are focused on the insight. We call it Customer Experience Visualisation