I had the privilege of watching the recent NSA surveillance story unfold from my hotel room in London this June. Seeing the story from a decidedly non-American viewpoint got me thinking a bit differently about the implications for our society. From my point of view — no matter how you define the squishy and now beat-to-death “big data” concept — the NSA story has moved it from something “they use” to something that is uncomfortably close to where we live our lives. In other words, big data just moved in next door and is peeking over our fences into our living rooms. Eeek.
There are lots of socio-political issues with this, and I’m not even going to go there. However, the way that I see it, this incident will ultimately create a lot of opportunity for businesses savvy enough to get ahead of it the can of worms now squirming in our laps.
I think one of two things is going to happen. Either: 1) the US general public will shrug and go back to business as usual and this story will die, or 2) the public outrage will demand governmental oversight and accountability resulting in a tightening of our legal system. The latter case would be an example of how digital disruption, a topic we have written and blogged about for a while, is not just a business thing. It’s a cultural phenomenon that will rock our society for a long time.
As the analyst covering all things emerging information technology, I spend a bit of time watching web and social feeds looking for interesting and potentially disruptive stuff. Fortunately, it’s a good time for me to be doing this, as there are all kinds of things going on. I’ve decided to pass some of the best on to my readers in periodic “What’s Cooking” posts.
Digital currency will turn retail and financial services on its head, eventually. Digital currency fascinates me, especially the enigmatic Bitcoin creator and its so far unbreakable code*. Also the way you have to mine for more coins is very interesting. Whether or not Bitcoin succeeds as the de facto standard, I think digital currency is inevitable and the more firms that accept is, the crazier things will get. Check out The Antisocial Network of Bitcoins.
I heard a great analogy from a client recently; buying new technology is like buying a new car - there are a lot of different strategies. Some people want a new car every couple of years and pay a premium to have it, some choose to lease so they get a new car every few years at a lower payment but they don’t own. Others buy new but plan to drive the wheels off their purchase. The problem is that IT wants to buy a nice reliable sedan and drive it for 200K miles, while some business units want to lease a SUV and others want a Ferrari. It’s an issue of misalignment, but in so many cases IT is not synching up with the business desire to innovate and differentiate with new technology.
Many architects and technology executives relate a cautious approach to introducing new, “bleeding edge” technology because they are in a very conservative business that doesn’t change that much. Ask them about the level of business investment in technology outside of IT, however, and they whistle. “Yup, that’s happening allot.”
The term “one-trick pony” allegedly originated back in the 19th-century days of the traveling circus, where low-end ones were sarcastically called “dog and pony shows.” The really bad ones got the reputation of having a pony that only knew one trick. Today many IT shops are in danger of becoming like those sad circuses, having one or at least a very limited set of technology tricks to help their firms seize opportunities quickly. For example, I routinely talk to business people who say they avoid IT at all costs when they have new analytic needs; at these firms, IT has only one response to all new requests for data – update the data warehouse or a data mart in a slow and expensive waterfall development process.
One term keeps occurring, as I talk to businesses about this issue — they want to be real-time. We’ve been using the term for years to talk about a wide range of things, from embedded C to extreme, low-latency analytics. I think all of these miss what the business is really after — the ability to use more information more quickly to take rapid action in response to unanticipated changes in their environment. Five-year technology strategies are out; but many can’t get their head around this new world, which is why a recent Forrester study showed that IT is increasingly losing control of technology spend. How do we get back in the game?
Companies like Barclays Wealth Management, Sears, and USAA are redefining their architecture with new tricks to be responsive in real-time by:
The pace of technology-fueled business innovation is accelerating, and enterprise architects can take a leading role by helping their firms identify opportunities for shrewd investment. In our 2012 global state of EA online survey, we asked again what the most disruptive technologies would be; here’s what we found:
The results shouldn’t surprise anybody; however, if you are only looking at these, you are likely to get smacked in the face when you blink -- things are changing that fast. In the near future, new platforms built on today’s hot technologies will create more disruption. For example, by 2016 there will be 760 million tablets in use and almost one-third will be sold to business. Forrester currently has a rich body of research on mobility and other hot technologies, such as Forrester’s mobile eBusiness playbook and the CIO’s mobile engagement playbook. But by 2018, mobile will be the norm, so then what?
I just finished analyzing our Q3 2012 Global State Of Enterprise Architecture Online Survey, where we asked a number of questions at the end of the survey on how firms identify and introduce new technology – new technology that your firm is counting on for innovation and competitive advantage. The results underscore a conviction that is growing in me: IT’s “one-size-fits-all” approach to standardizing everything and general aversion to risk isn't cutting the mustard. Simply put, opportunities for competitive advantage through technology-fueled disruption get missed, and this means digital extinction. Some data from our survey of 207 enterprise architects:
58% reported that sales and marketing is among the top five most likely organizations to deliver technology innovations, and they are chasing windows of opportunity that close in months. IT typically takes at least a year to do anything.
52% say there is at least some business dissatisfaction with the level of new technology introduction. The top reason, given by 78% of respondents, is that IT is too slow.
70% of respondents admit their firms have trouble reacting to disruptions caused by emerging technology, and 60% admit to difficulty reacting to change in general.
George Colony, our CEO, just released a post on his blog about enterprise architecture, aptly enough named “Enterprise Architects For Dummies (CEOs).” I retweeted the post to my followers and received a flood of responses, most of which were violently disagreeing with George’s assertion that EA works for the CIO. I think this is a pointless argument, but underscores a very important change that most are missing.
Here’s what I mean:
The objection to putting EA under the CIO is based on an old-school notion.That notion is that CIOs are chief technology infrastructure managers. Our data shows that the role of CIO is changing, fueled by cloud and other as-a-service technology. CTOs or VPs of IT are increasingly taking on the job we used to think of as the CIO, while progressive CIOs are evolving to something else. Locating EA under the CTO is a bad idea, we all agree.
Every business is a digital business.If you don’t believe me, I’ll send you a pile of research. There is no such thing as a non-information-centric business anymore — or at least there won’t be for very long, because they are going out of business. Forrester has been using the term “business technology” (BT) for a while to indicate that there is no room for having separate business and IT — it simply won’t work much longer. Even in the most paper, analog verticals, we can give you example after example; check out Monsanto’s IFS (they are a seed company!).
I’ll be chairing Big Data World Europe on September 19 in London; in advance of that event, here are a few thoughts.
Since late 2011, we’ve seen the big data noise level eclipse cloud and even BYOD, and we are seeing the backlash too (see Death By Big Data, to which I tweeted, “Yes, I suppose, ‘too much of anything is a bad thing’”). The number one thing clients want to know is, “What is my competition doing? Give me examples I can talk to my business about.” These questions reflect a curiosity on the part of IT and a “peeking under the hood to see what’s there” attitude.
My advice is to start the big data journey with your feet on the ground and your head around what it really is. Here are some “rules” I’ve been using with folks I talk to:
● First rule of big data: don’t talk about big data. The old adage holds true here — those that can do big data do it, those that can’t talk <yup, I see the irony :-)>. I was on the phone with a VP of analytics who reflected that her IT people were constantly bringing new technologies to them like a dog with a bone. Her general reaction is, show me the bottom-line value. So what to do? Instead of talking to your business about big data, find ways to solve problems more affordably with data at greater scale. Now that’s “doing big data.”
Last fall, a member of our enterprise architecture community asked a simple question — how do you represent IT strategy on a single page? What resulted was the most read and commented discussion to date. That got our attention! But what really piqued our interest was when another community participant challenged us to go beyond our usual publishing process to co-create a report with the community.
For those who have been following the discussion, it has been slow going, but I'm glad to say that we are done! What's more, we have decided to make this report available to everyone since much of the content came directly from the community. Please follow this link (www.forrester.com/btstrategyonapage) to request your copy if you are not a client (free site registration is required). Clients should go to our normal site to download the report.
In the research, we took the community contributions and created a toolkit in PowerPoint form containing seven examples of business technology (BT) strategy representation on a single "page." The lesson we learned is that there is no one right way to do it and you will probably need several one-pagers for different audiences.
Why title it BT and not IT? We started out with the notion of pure IT strategy, but quickly realized that the best one-pagers married business strategy with technology strategy. Ideally, these two should be co-created by business and technology leaders. Why? Because "aligned IT" can no longer keep up with the blinding pace of business change; it takes a business technology approach. Consider:
In our Forrsights Business Decision-Makers Survey, Q4 2011, 79% of business executive respondents said that technology will be a key source of innovation for their company, while 71% said that it will be a competitive differentiator. So how well positioned is IT to help firms meet these expectations? Forty-six percent thought that their current IT organization was not well positioned to meet these needs, and 41% thought IT was overly bureaucratic.
I could go on with more data, but the message is clear — business is starving for technology to help it be more innovative, create market differentiation, and lower costs. In the midst of this, IT is mired in a technology mess created by years of underinvestment and business growth by acquisition. What’s going to happen?
The thing I want you to remember is something a client said to me not too long ago that stuck with me, “Starving people will find food.” So the question is: do we feed our starving business or tell them to stay on a diet? And if the latter, what will be the impact if they go scavenging the countryside? We think the answer involves flexibly and rapidly introducing new technology to take advantage of strategic opportunities, while still protecting data, mission-critical applications, and our most precious TCO reduction goals.