For IT Summit, a focus on innovation

first_imgOpening the University’s seventh annual Harvard IT Summit at Sanders Theatre, Harvard’s chief information officer, Anne Margulies, put forth the goals of the event: “We’re here to build our IT community, to connect more closely to the University mission, and to learn from each other.”Thursday’s gathering, sponsored by Harvard’s CIO Council, brought together IT professionals, key partners, and faculty for a day of programming and concurrent sessions to explore technology innovations and best practices in higher education. This year, 1,400 attended.Karim R. Lakhani, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and the afternoon keynote speaker, said in his remarks that it’s a brave new world for business, and IT professionals will be the ones to navigate to the increasingly broad horizon.“The whole economy is becoming digital in many ways,” said Lakhani, who, as the faculty co-founder of the Harvard Business School Digital Initiative, specializes in technology management and innovation. Lakhani opened by referencing the confusion and fear this sea change has wrought.“The executives we see have a lot of anxiety. Is Amazon going to take over? Is Google going to become the next Telco?” he asked. “We’re educating the executives at the Business School in how to cope with this change.”The change, he explained to the audience of Harvard’s IT professionals, is scary because it is structural. Rather than focusing on products and services, he said, the current digital economy is based on platforms and ecosystems. In other words, business now depends much less on what you make than on how many people you can invite to join you.Because this model is so different, Lakhani said, “most technological predictions are wrong.” He went on to describe the inaccurate forecast of cellphone usage created for AT&T in 1982. A straight-line prediction estimated a mere 900,000 users by 2000. (In reality, there were half a billion global users by then.) “This curtailed significant investment,” he noted.The result has been “major missed opportunities,” he said. For example, even an apparent market winner, Nokia, failed to see basic changes in the economy. Although Nokia’s phones were first with many technological advances, Lakhani pointed out, the company missed the growing importance of the platform.Ryan Frazier of HBS listens intently to Lakhani’s afternoon keynote address.Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer“The architecture of the industry shifted to a two-part system,” he said. “What mattered was the core operating system and enabling lots of people to participate in your ecosystem, developing apps.” Touch screens and web connectivity didn’t help as developers flocked to more open platforms — and took consumers and market share with them.Google’s recent purchase of Nest home systems for a staggering $3 billion shows an increasing understanding of the importance of platforms. It is not that Google needs to be in the thermostat business, Lakhani explained, but that the interconnectivity of the Nest system offers the possibility of more horizontal business expansion. With customers who value connectivity and the data these systems provide, Google can expand. While the analog thermostat industry might be limited, the digital one is not. Perhaps, Lakhani noted, Nest will begin analyzing clients’ maintenance needs and take charge of scheduling them, or it will advise energy companies.“How are you creating value? How are you hatching value?” Lakhani asked. “Once we can aggregate data, we can rethink how to create value for our customers.”These lessons reach far beyond the business world. Lakhani recounted how, in his role as principal investigator at the Crowd Innovation Laboratory and NASA Tournament Laboratory, Harvard Institute for Quantitative Social Science, he helped utilize this horizontal thinking. The International Space Station, he explained, has an ongoing problem with part of its solar-energy system. The longerons — long, thin tubes that attach the solar panels to the station — are vulnerable to the extreme difference between sun and shade and so must be manipulated carefully to avoid damage. While NASA engineers had an imperfect solution, the NASA Tournament Laboratory created the ISS Longeron Challenge to help the ISS access more power. Offering a $30,000 prize — “decimal dust” in the NASA budget, as Lakhani put it — the contest garnered 2,000 code submissions from more than 450 entrants, including coders from Italy, China, and Belarus, who never would have been part of the original team.More than half of the entries, said Lakhani, bettered the internal NASA solution. Many implemented completely different methods. Some, for example, would extend the lifespans of the joints that move the solar panels. With additional examples, from a study of MOOCs to a Dutch group that is analyzing — and potentially recreating — the works of Rembrandt, Lakhani made his point.For Harvard and higher education more broadly, the digital transformation is “completely changing the skills we need in our faculty and our students, the tools we need, and the partnership with our IT organization — to even do humanities,” he said. “Our mission as educators is up for us to reimagine.”last_img read more

March 4, 2019 Police Blotter

Basketball teams given familiar Trojan voices

first_imgBeginning this weekend, two young teams will suit up under the USC basketball moniker, with a total of four scholarship seniors on the men’s and women’s teams and multiple freshmen ready to play big roles on both squads.It is fitting then that both of the teams’ broadcasters will be young and new as well.Chris Fisher, 25, is the new voice of the Trojans on ESPN Radio 710 AM. Fisher, who graduated from USC in 2007 with a degree in political science and three years of experience calling minor-league baseball across the nation, took over the play-by-play position in July after spending one season calling women’s basketball for USC. He takes over for the late Rory Markas, who died of an apparent heart attack in January.Taking over Fisher’s vacated post with the women is Jason Schwartz, a 22-year-old Los Angeles native who graduated from USC in May with a degree in broadcast journalism and has called two seasons of summer-league baseball in the Pacific Northwest.Collectively, the duo represents a big step for USC hiring two young broadcasters with Trojan connections. Add up their two ages and you might come close to the age of a normal basketball play-by-play man at most schools across the nation.“We’re somewhat in the same boat,” Schwartz says, adding that the two have known each other since they were students. “We’re both going into unfamiliar territory. Even though he did women’s basketball, obviously jumping up to men’s is completely different and, being on ESPN radio, there’s a lot that goes with that.”Both will make their respective debuts this weekend — Schwartz tonight at the Galen Center against Gonzaga and Fisher on Saturday against UC Irvine, also at home. And their first road trips aren’t far away either, with Schwartz and the women traveling to Cameron Indoor Stadium for a big test at Duke on Monday — a game Schwartz says he’s been excited for “since before I got the job.” Fisher and the men’s squad heads to Massachusetts next weekend for a preseason tournament, with other nonconference trips to Nebraska, Kansas and Tennessee scheduled in the next month.Both will be calling every game for the teams, who each have the potential to qualify for the NCAA tournament. The women’s squad was close to getting in a year ago, as it was the first team out of the bracket of 64 left out. Analysts said they were snubbed; USC coach Michael Cooper compared finding out about it to losing to the Boston Celtics in the NBA finals as a Los Angeles Laker.But the Women of Troy are predicted to be the third-best team in the deep Pac-10 conference this year, a finish that would almost assuredly earn them a spot in the Big Dance.“Personally, I’m very excited for the prospects for the team this year,” Schwartz said. “Obviously any time a coach is in his second year, things are going to be better, and I think they have awesome leadership. The fact is, they didn’t really lose very many players. And what they lost, they’ve definitely made up for.”Schwartz is right. USC returns its two top players from a season ago in stud juniors Briana Gilbreath and Ashley Corral, most of its top players, and adds two nationally known freshmen in Cassie Harberts and Len’Nique Brown.The men’s situation is a little different. The Trojans lost a lot, with three starters — Mike Gerrity, Dwight Lewis and Marcus Johnson — graduating, but they will benefit from an actual incentive this time around.Remember, USC banned itself from postseason play last January just as the Trojans were hitting their stride. The NCAA tourney — and the National Invitational Tournament, for that matter — are up for grabs this season, and Kevin O’Neill’s squad has set a firm goal of reaching postseason play.And O’Neill just might have the talent to do it, with two star freshmen of his own in Bryce and Maurice Jones. Combined with returning forwards junior Nikola Vucevic and senior Alex Stepheson, and the much-improved senior Marcus Simmons, the Trojans will surely be in the mix.“They’ve got some key guys at some spots that they haven’t had in the past,” Fisher said. “ They’ve got a point guard this year that they’re going to have from start to finish. They’re going to have one of the best frontcourts in the country with Vucevic and Stepheson, and they’re going to be rebounding machines. And when they get [Fordham transfer] Jio Fontan back, if they get solid production from those guys, they’ve got a chance to make a run at some things.”Fisher will be along for the ride, as will Schwartz.“Who knows whether or not they’re going to make the NCAA tournament or how well they’re gonna do in the Pac-10 tournament, but I think that this team has the potential to make some noise and re-establish itself as a Pac-10 player,” Fisher said. “They’ve got some interesting things they can present.”“Looking Past the X’s and O’s” runs every other Friday. To comment on this article, visit or e-mail Pedro at [email protected]last_img read more