I just saw something that makes a point I covered in a technology trends briefing for a client yesterday. After getting my Sun-dried Ethiopia Harrar (a $3.45 “clover-brewed,” ridiculously priced guilty pleasure – nice marketing job, Starbucks!), I noticed a young woman sitting behind me with her 5x7 notebook out, busily scribbling while bent over a large smartphone. Hmmm, I thought, let’s see what she’s doing. So I made pest of myself by asking a few questions. Here is some of the Q&A (her replies are abbreviated; she was actually quite helpful and not as curt):
Q: Are you a student or is what you are doing for work? A: No, I’m actually working.
Q: So do you have a PC? A: I do, but it’s a bulky 17” laptop that I got when I was a student, and I can do what I need on this.
Q: Is that company-issued phone, or is it yours? A: It’s mine.
Q: Does your company help by paying for any of the service? A: No, I pay it all myself.
Q: Are you doing an official assignment? A: No, nobody told me to do this. I am ...
Q: Do you even have your PC with you? A: No, I didn’t bring it.
In the first phase of the information age, technology helped us achieve new levels of productivity. In the next phase, technology will shape who we are. Why? Because technology is everywhere – and savvy businesses are paying attention. I did a check on a recent trip and noticed that, on average, 80% of the people around me were nose down in their technology. That’s amazing if you stop and think about it….(pause for thinking)…When you spend that much time using something, it ceases to be a helper and starts to shape who you are.
I think 2012 will be a watershed year for the global business environment as technology moves from being “out there” to “part of us.” In 2020, we will look back on 2012 not as the year the world ended but as the year it changed for good. Check out the TED video We Are All Cyborgs Now. Here are four predictions about business in 2012 that all start with the fusion of business and technology and the impact that it will have on shaping business. I hope will add some new thought food to your mental garden:
As my first calendar year as an analyst draws to a close, I wanted to thank everybody who has read and commented on my blog and say that I look forward to even more next year. In closing out the year, I turn for a moment away from emerging technology to share an email I wrote to one of our clients in response to some questions he had about the changing nature of EA. In describing the future, I'm going to blatantly pirate a term that Randy Heffner has been using for a while because as I sought to answer this client's questions, I realized how absolutely spot on it is. here is the relevant text of that email:
Happy to answer your questions as outlined below in the inquiry request. We have published a report along similar lines, BT 2020: IT's Future In The Empowered Era, that I recommend for additional ideas. Regarding timing, 2015 will be a stepping stone towards 2020, so I’ll focus answers on 2020, and you can extrapolate to 2015 in terms of the migration that needs to occur.
Cloud – people can’t agree on exactly what it is, but everyone can agree that they want some piece of it. I have not talked to a single client who isn’t doing something proactively to pursue cloud in some form or fashion. This cloud-obsession was really evident in our 2011 technology tweet jam as well, which is why this year’s business technology and technology trends reports cover cloud extensively. Our research further supports this – for example, 29% of infrastructure and operations executives surveyed stated that building a private cloud was a critical priority for 2011, while 28% plan to use public offerings, and these numbers are rising every year.
So what should EAs think about cloud? My suggestion is that you think about how your current IT strategy supports taking advantage of what cloud is offering (and what it’s not). Here are our cloud-related technology trends along with some food for thought:
The next phase of IT industrialization begins. This trend points out how unprepared our current IT delivery model is for the coming pace of technology change, which is why cloud is appealing. It offers potentially faster ways to acquire technology services. Ask yourself – is my firm’s current IT model and strategy good enough to meet technology demands of the future?
We are currently in a technology growth cycle, which is likely to continue for another five to seven years.* The opportunities presented by the likes of cloud, mobile, social, and big data are abundant. I'm wondering if EAs are overly focused on consolidation, simplification, and cost control, which could lead to missing the boat. Alternatively, companies may just leave EA behind as they sail to newer, profitable waters.
In Forrester's September 2011 Global State Of Enterprise Architecture Online Survey, we asked architects to prioritize the following challenges, and here is what we found:
While 37% of firms told us that improving how their firms identify and integrate new/disruptive technology was high priority, it was a substantially smaller percentage than the other nine challenges we asked about. Compare this to: 1) a similar CIO survey that ranked business technology innovation as the top priority, and 2) another EA survey question indicating that "using technology to increase business competitiveness" was the number three IT driver for EA programs.
My concern is that other things may be distracting EA attention away from the opportunities that abound in this growth cycle. Consider:
As promised in my blog last week, here is part 2. In part 1, I introduced the two trends reports we did this year and showed the list of trends for business technology. These are trends and technologies to consider first with your "business hat" on. This blog post lists the other 10 trends to view first from a technology lens because they are of lower interest or impact to the business.
We have created four new categories to make IT stakeholder identification easier: 1) application platforms will be of high interest to your app dev and management teams; 2) integration will be of interest to app dev, data integration specialists, and even process folks (considering that processes can and should be integrated with apps and data); 3) infrastructure and operations; and 4) mobile computing, which spans infrastructure, app dev, and possibly line-of-business relationship managers who are very keen on mobility. And don't forget your security and compliance stakeholders, who will generally care about all of these!
Before listing the trends and technologies, I also want to introduce a new twist to our research this year - we have identified four major themes that run through many of our business technology and technology trends. These themes are so broad and far reaching that we thought it worth calling them out separately; we are advising our clients to understand these themes as the context for responding to individual trends:
It seems that every week another vendor slaps “big data” into its marketing material – and it’s going to get worse. Should you look beyond the vendor hype and pay attention? Absolutely yes! Why? Because big data has the potential to shape your market’s next winners and losers.
At Forrester, we think clients must develop an intuitive understanding of big data by learning: 1) what is new about it; 2) what it is; and 3) how it will influence their market.
What is new about big data? We estimate that firms effectively utilize less than 5% of available data. Why so little? The rest is simply too expensive to deal with. Big data is new because it lets firms affordably dip into that other 95%. If two companies use data with the same effectiveness but one can handle 15% of available data and one is stuck at 5%, who do you think will win? The deal, however, is that big data is not like your traditional BI tools; it will require new processes and may totally redefine your approach to data governance.
Whenever I think about big data, I can't help but think of beer – I have Dr. Eric Brewer to thank for that. Let me explain.
I've been doing a lot of big data inquiries and advisory consulting recently. For the most part, folks are just trying to figure out what it is. As I said in a previous post, the name is a misnomer – it is not just about big volume. In my upcoming report for CIOs, Expand Your Digital Horizon With Big Data, Boris Evelson and I present a definition of big data:
Big data: techniques and technologies that make handling data at extreme scale economical.
You may be less than impressed with the overly simplistic definition, but there is more than meets the eye. In the figure, Boris and I illustrate the four V's of extreme scale:
The point of this graphic is that if you just have high volume or velocity, then big data may not be appropriate. As characteristics accumulate, however, big data becomes attractive by way of cost. The two main drivers are volume and velocity, while variety and variability shift the curve. In other words, extreme scale is more economical, and more economical means more people do it, leading to more solutions, etc.
So what does this have to do with beer? I've given my four V's spiel to lots of people, but a few aren't satisfied, so I've been resorting to the CAP Theorem, which Dr. Brewer presented at conference back in 2000. I'll let you read the link for the details, but the theorem (proven by MIT) goes something like this:
Many organizations expect EAs to be the source of technology innovations. They are broadly knowledgeable, experienced, connect-the-dots kind of people you might naturally expect to come up with reasonable ideas for new approaches and technology. When you think about it a bit, this expectation is misplaced. Here’s why I think this:
The best technology innovators are users who have a problem to solve; motivation to solve a specific problem affecting their lives is the key ingredient. EAs just don’t have these kinds of problems; because they operate as a bridge between business and technology, most often they are attempting to solve things that affect other people’s lives. Please don’t get me wrong: EAs are always looking for new, innovative ways to improve things. But this doesn’t replace the “I gotta fix this now” kind of motivation inspiring most innovations.
So am I saying organizations should take EAs out of the innovator role? Yes and no.
Here at Forrester, we have been writing and talking about topics such as Innovation Networks and new roles for business technology for a while. I think that EAs are better placed at the center of an Innovation Network where they connect innovation suppliers (lead users who are dreaming up new ways to solve their problems) with innovation users (other folks who can benefit from a generalization of the solutions the suppliers come up with). In addition, EAs can bring innovation implementers — the team members who know how to actually make innovations into solutions that work for more than just one individual or group — into the conversation.
So what should you do?
Send EAs on a mission to find people doing innovative things in IT and the business. This has a side effect of connecting EAs to the frontlines, where they might discover all kinds of things.