Quantum computers – practical applications

2 min.

Summary

The quantum computer is now finding its way into the business world and its practical applications and is leaving the purely scientific realm. The quantum computer will enable us to face previously unsolved challenges in the field of artificial intelligence and diverse simulations. In all areas where large amounts of data and parallel processing are necessary.

Miniaturization of transistors reaches its limits today

On a chip of 2 * 2 cm there are 18 billion transistors. Now the physical limits of production are reached with a transistor size of 10 nanometers. The transistor represents the well known characteristic 0 and 1 (1 bit).

The previous manufacturing process using ultraviolet light is now reaching its limits. With transistors in these small sizes (a few atoms large), the electrons jump over the barrier in the transistor (pass through the closed transistor) and the transistor loses its effect of representing 0 or 1 because the electrons become independent. This effect is called quantum mechanical effect.

How does a quantum computer work?

Exactly this effect is used for the production of quantum computers. Because a quantum computer no longer uses only one bit (i.e. 0 and 1; “either or”), but a qubit (0, 1 and 0/1; 2both as well as”). The qubit thus allows 2 states (0 and 1) to be taken simultaneously. This property is called superposition. If now the state of the transistor is measured, this qubit “colabrates” in a clearly defined probability 1 or 0.

With classical bits, four different combinations are represented in the transistor: 00, 11, 01 and 10. With a qubit, all four combinations can be used simultaneously. Thus it is possible to represent N bits for N qubits = 2 high. In addition, parallel arithmetic operations are also possible due to the superposition. These multiply exponentially with each additional qubit.

Furthermore there is another quantum mechanical effect of the “entanglement” = linking of one qubit with another qubit. A qubit reacts automatically to the change of its partner qubit.

The weakening of the Moorschen law (every 18 months a doubling of the computing power) should be stopped again with the development of quantum computers in many applications.

Sensible applications of the quantum computer

Therefore, the quantum computer can perform parallel computations better and is therefore very well suited for searching databases, decrypting encryptions and simulations. The quantum computer does not play an advantage in sequential computations and here the classical computer (digital computer) will certainly continue to be used for cost reasons until further notice.

Examples for simulations can be:

  • simulations of molecule cooling in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries
  • traffic simulations
  • quantum algorithms in artificial intelligence
  • cryptography

The quantum computer is now moving from the scientific research niche into the business world and its practical applications.

How do you program a quantum computer?

The algorithms to be used differ from the algorithms of the digital computer to use entanglement and superposition. Several arithmetic operations, so-called quantum gates, are used to entangle, read or modify the qubits described above. Special algorithms for prime factor decomposition (in crypotography) and special search algorithms (for database query) have existed for a long time, but are now used in business environments.

Ethics and morals and how they determine our future

4 min.

Summary

Ethics and morality as delimitable concepts form the guard rails for our shaping of the future. An action is seen as morally correct if it is regarded by all as correct or just. It must now be defined who “all” are. A different evaluation by different cultural circles of “future topics” leads to different standards of values and thus to accelerated or slowing trends in the introduction of “future topics”.

How do morality and ethics differ?

Ethics and morality as delimitable concepts form the guard rails for our shaping of the future. First a differentiation between the two terms is necessary before we consider how these guard rails apply to the respective context and thus directly influence our future.

Ethics is derived from the Greek word ēthos . Translated, this means character or sense. Morality comes from Latin and means translated custom. Ethics is therefore the higher authority and illuminates various morals and considers them from a philosophical point of view. Morality is the practical application of ethics. Morality is the practising or practical ethics.

What is ethically correct now?

An action is regarded as morally correct if it is regarded by all as correct or fair. Now it has to be defined who “all” are. In the context of globalisation and the ever closer intermeshing of cultures and economies, this is not so easy. In our European culture, ethical values are determined by questions like:

  • Is that natural?
  • Is that normal?
  • Is it human?

In other regions, such as the Silicon Valley or often in Asia, demand is high:

  • Is that causing damage?
  • Is that useful?
  • Does it have a side effect?

This diversity is already empirically underpinned at Hofstede with the cultural dimension “uncertainty avoidance”, as explained in my article International Project Portfolio Management, taking cultural differences into account. Germany has a value of 65 for uncertainty avoidance, in contrast to China with 40 and the USA with 46, for example. The other two cultural groups are therefore rated as much more daring in comparison to Germany.

Ethical diversity and inhomogeneity of cultural groups

As written in my article “Project manager in 2030” over a year ago there will be “in 500 weeks … robots support the care of old people.” Is this natural, normal or even human? The majority of Europeans will say no.

In the USA or Asia, the illumination of this aspect on harm, benefit and side effect will be a very different answer to the ethical question. For through these communities will be put forward: The shortage of caregivers will become more and more apparent and then the benefit of a robot in elderly care will certainly be greater than potential damage. On the contrary, it will be argued that damage will be avoided because the elderly to be cared for do not “lie down” in bed due to the amount of lying down and the constant need to change beds. Does it have any negative side effects? Certainly not, because instead of the staff doing lifting and cleaning, the staff will be able to take care of communication and personal care. Depending on the cultural context, these ethical considerations may differ. The consideration of the thesis from the same article “In 500 weeks we will eat meat bred in laboratories” can be illuminated analogously and the same discrepancy of the approach will be found.

In addition to diversity, the inhomogeneity of cultural circles must also be noted. Within each culture there will be adherents of both forms, which is now ethical. On the one hand followers with the focus on testing for naturalness and humanity vs. followers who rather focus on damage and benefit evaluations.

Effects on the development of future trends

This fundamentally different evaluation of “future topics” leads to different standards of values and thus to accelerated or slowing trends in the introduction of “future topics”. Therefore, will we in Europe lag behind in the new trends and will be other regions be a pulse generator?

I think it depends a lot on the topics. In the field of “immortality”, i.e. DNA replications and changes in the first steps, Asian research laboratories and companies are already a long way ahead in concrete research into immortality. In the field of autonomous driving, there is likely to be a certain dominance in the scientific field in Europe, but this has already neutralised itself in the commercial field. In the blockchain sector, Germany has fortunately established a good basis of start-ups that are internationally competitive.

Do future trends need new regulations?

Now the question arises whether regulations are already necessary for these trends. These are established for topics such as social media (already established commodity products such as Facebook). On the subject of autonomous driving, there are worldwide prototypes of regulations that are used as limited regulations and have been temporarily established by politics on an experimental basis. Here, German policymakers must succeed in adapting these in good time in order not to slow down these new trends in our region in comparison to other regions. Here, key industries such as the German automotive industry are hanging by a thread and could fall behind due to a lame legislation. For it will not be decisive who has completed the first and best autonomous journeys in realistic environments on which test site, but who can and has demonstrated this to the masses. It is already the case today that autonomous systems can drive safer than any human driver (in most environments). The only future trend area I know for which even the world’s greatest visionaries want clear regulations is the field of artificial intelligence. Here, limitations should be set early on so that man, as then the second most intelligent creature after AI, does not become a servant of AI. Fears in this area are not completely unfounded but extremely complex to regulate. Exciting times.

Agile vortex?!

3 min.

Summary

Agile work or delivery is only possible if necessary decisions can always be called up. It also does not work without appropriate governance. There is huge similarity in turnaround situations of classical projects with the approach of agile projects. The focus here is on short iterations and close coordination with the customer. The introduction of agile principles should be based on this observation. Agile principles will continue to spread differently in different industries. But whoever thinks of agility about method or technology is wrong! Early results in the project and close coordination with the real customer are not method or tool results.

Agile project management does not work without appropriate governance

Agile work or delivery is only possible if necessary decisions can always be called up. In my article “Communication Principles in a Project” it is easy to see that the short time until a decision is made is extremely important. This is often slowed down or even blocked by the middle layers of management in a company. This so-called permafrost cannot comprehend the need for agility often sensibly identified by top management. Likewise, decisions necessary in the course of the project cannot be made by the senior management themselves, as are not be placed correctly with them.

Agile project management is very similar to the approach of classic projects in turnaround situations

In both cases, the focus is on short iterations and close coordination with the customer. The introduction of agile principles should be based on this observation. The classic project plan is then usually only a reference for contract-relevant delivery items. The chain of failure in projects is the customer relationship and thus the governance structure, then the tools and processes and at the latest the employee frustration. When introducing agile principles, the sequence is exactly the other way around. In my experience, the team atmosphere in project organizations can indicate a wide variety of problems at any time, and not only that “something” is wrong, but also in which project management domains (see my article SmileyPoints). It would also be interesting to use this method when introducing agile project management.

How will the agile vortex spread now?

As can be deduced from my article “Project Manager in 2030“, the agile principles will continue to spread differently in different industries. What this “agility” will look like, whether pure SCRUM, SRUM of SRCUM, Kanban, scaled agile, SAFe, LeSS, Spotify will be shaped by the customer and company environment (i.e. products, services, industry, size, etc.). Is “classic project management” dead? Certainly not, because there are certain complex (very large programs) and complicated (repetitive projects) for which classical project management will be the better alternative. Nevertheless, it makes sense for the classic project manager to make tool picking out of the agile box. But whoever associates agility with method or technology is wrong! Early results in the project and close coordination with the real customer are not method or tool results. Concepts and planning are required in both approaches. Approaches such as scaled agile approaches e.g. SAFe take this aspect particularly into account.

The challenges for product owners or project managers

The challenge for the drivers of ventures, whether product owner, project manager or program manager, will now be that they should play different instruments in different environments. Because the dogmatic orientation “we only do agile single projects” can only take place in companies that have no need for diverse interfaces and environments. The exclusive product owner or program manager will therefore rather remain the rare species. A stigmatization of the two approaches is therefore certainly not meaningful, but the combined application or simply said the agile classical project is the future. Early and constant results and close end customer coordination are the success factor in all projects.

Project Manager in the year 2030

5 min.

Summary:

Does the project manager still exist in 2030 – as we know him today? The answer in a nutshell: No. The tasks of the project managers will change in the areas of leadership, organization and project implementation.

I was tempted to take part in the German Projektmagazin’s blog parade. Because on the one hand we are talking here about a term “project manager” that has come under intense discussion (especially in the German speaking project manager community using terms project managers and project leaders slightly differentiated) and on the other hand about a period of time that is very long even for futurologists. The researchers do not believe to be capable to define changes in this time dimension.

The project manager as a term

Both parts of the word project manager are currently in great discussion as to whether they are meaningful or even contemporary. Projects as such like in BI unit of Otto are no longer seen as necessary. The (project) leader or project manager is not intended in the pure agile set. Here, leadership will be given an even more important focus than it already is today. Managers in the sense of controlling and directing will become less and less relevant due to the already visible developments.

It is problematic to give a future statement about the project manager in 2030, if already today the term as such no longer has the anchoring, as perhaps in the preceding decades. Let us dare an attempt.

Time as a yardstick

It’s 12 years till 2030. Appears long. If you think about what the world looked like 12 years ago, backwards from today 2018: There was no iPhone, no Android, no app stores, no Youtube, no Spotify, no Kindle, no Tablet, no digital full format sensor in a serial camera (to put my hobby into context). One recognizes it happens more in 10 or 12 years than one assumes. That’s why futurologists don’t calculate in years, but in weeks in order to emphasize the short-term nature and to evaluate future models and statements faster and make them more comparable. The futurologist assumes 50 weeks per year. How many weeks have passed since New Year’s Eve? Three. So less than 50 weeks to New Year. In these three weeks not many things happened according to the human feeling. In the best case, you have planned three weeks and reflected them three times. But the “cross-week” tactical themes don’t seem significant. Nevertheless, project managers, Scrum Masters or one-man companies are working on the revolutionary aspects of the future. In the next 597 weeks until the year 2030.

What will the project environment look like in 500 weeks?

What will the world look like in 500 weeks? It seems pretty certain that in 500 weeks I and 70% of the German population will no longer own a car. In 500 weeks we won’t have any smartphones anymore. In 500 weeks we will no longer be using a supermarket. In 500 weeks we will produce more electricity in our households than we consume. In 500 weeks we will eat meat bred in laboratories. In 500 weeks we will receive ears for people from the 3D printer as medical spare parts. In 500 weeks robots will support the care of elderly people. In 500 weeks, 40% of the German population will have intelligent non-medical implants. In 500 weeks …

All these endeavors – let’s call them projects here for simplicity’s sake – are accompanied by people. This is not about generating ideas, but about implementing them. The fact that the creation, definition and implementation of ideas should be close to each other in terms of personnel is supported by some and criticized by others.

Requirements for today’s project managers in 2030

What impact does this have on me and all the other project managers from 2018? The visionary project manager who drives this one idea will no longer exist. We can already see today how complex the world of work and the world as such has become. This can no longer be united by one person. So it will have to be more and more a team effort. Which is good. This naturally has an effect on the aspect of leadership. We recognize trends already in agile beginnings which do not represent however yet the end of the road. The following generations have and demand a different attitude to work. I have experienced this many times myself and already talk like my grandfathers (“The young people today”). But also this change is good, because …

“No change, no development.”
Birgit Ramlow (*1948), employee and hobby aphorist

Transformation vs. Revolution

And now a much criticized term from the business economics: Transformation. When I think in weeks and design endeavors in a manageable time frame, there are transformation aspects. It is revolutionary when we experience a complete technological or paradigm shift. The smartphone was not a revolution, but a courageous and creative combination of available technologies. The push came somewhat delayed by the apps. But even these are not a classic revolution, but a further development on another platform and therefore used by more users. Why was the smartphone ultimately perceived as revolutionary and has this outward appearance? Well, my thesis is that managers of competitors like Nokia and Siemens weren’t brave enough and didn’t listen to the market. Imagination and creativity were not lacking. Because carmakers are also being predicted the whole development today and the reactions to it are, in my opinion, too hesitant. In development periods of 4 years per real model change, i.e. 200 weeks, you can no longer act today. So what can we deduce from this for the project manager?

He will work a lot in transformation projects and will contribute to the revolution by quickly placing new projects with courageous and fast acting managers.

Company management or committees in 2030

The biggest changes will certainly be one level higher in the hierarchy (if you want to talk about it at all – today at least one level higher) required at the portfolio board, at the product owners or however a company implements strategic decision making for itself. At Otto in the product area, in the agile environment by the product owner – as a representative for the management or the portfolio board in classical project management. These committees will certainly have to meet the defined requirements even more than in my article, written in 2016, in order to enable the timing between the transformations to revolutions. And let’s be honest, in the ~ 60 weeks since this article was written, the claim is still not fulfilled. So there is a need for action.

Different demands on the project managers

Will the development depend on the type of project?

There will no longer be a project manager who can manage projects universally in all industries and project types. At least today’s challenging attitude will be less and less correct.

In the area of software development, agile approaches and hybrid mix forms will develop for large programs. A design of these hybrid forms is material for another blog post.

Investment projects will continue to be similarly organized as today. And thus also the role and tasks of the project manager. Even if today’s examples, such as Berlin Airport, are not promising.

The young project manager in 2030

But what about the young project manager who will manage projects for the first time in 2030? He starts with a handicap. Because he himself, but also his IT architects and other colleagues, will not have experienced any more “journeyman years” here in Germany, since all “journeyman activities” were already relocated from the last century nearshore or offshore in the 1990s. It will no longer be so easy to start a career as a project manager, however shaped it may be. This can be observed today in environments that have changed for some time, such as the textile industry. Here in Germany today there are often problems to find qualified seamstresses for the sample collection. For this reason, companies themselves have to relocate business-critical areas such as design and sample collection abroad. This will also be the case with the project managers of the future. In the virtual world, with the supporting technologies, it will always be easy to carry out projects here in Germany. But also the proximity to the customer is less and less important due to the virtual support technologies. This means that in 2030 it will also be possible to carry out projects completely from a remote location (including project managers) without missing customer proximity in Germany.