Rethink Your IT Strategy If You’re Serious About Cloud

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?
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Technology Is Everywhere — Are You Paying Attention?

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:

 EA Survey Results

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:

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The Top Technology Trends For The Next Three Years (Part 2)

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:

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The Top Technology Trends For The Next Three Years

We just released our 2011 update to last year’s EA top trends report, The Top 15 Technology Trends EA Should Watch: 2011 To 2013. In 2011, we have expanded our coverage by releasing two documents of 10 trends each:

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Big Data Will Help Shape Your Market’s Next Big Winners

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.

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Big Data, Brewer, And A Couple Of Webinars

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:

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Do Not Depend On EA To Innovate

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?

  1. 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.
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Please Join Us At The Forrester Technology Trends Tweet Jam, 10-11 ET on 7/29

It's that time again, and we are busy updating our annual report, "The Top 15 Trends EA Should Watch." For this year, we have expanded the number of analysts contributing to the research, and we want to capture your thoughts condensed into 140 character sound bytes.

In addition to using the jam as research, we are going to prepare a second, special report citing key tweets and providing our analysis. We will make this report available on request to non-clients who participate, so come join us!

Info on the Jam

  • Hash tag: #forrtttj
  • When: Friday, 7/29, 10-11 a.m. Eastern time
  • Host: Brian Hopkins (@practicingEA)

Scope of the jam:

We predicted that 2011 would be about mobile, social, cloud and data. So far we have been right, but things are always changing. Some things we want to jam on:

  • What are the major technology landscape shifts you are seeing?
  • Are social, mobile, cloud and data still the big four or are there new things going on? What about each of these is interesting or vexing? What are the key shifts in client and vendor approaches?
  • What technologies are looming big on your radar this year and next?
  • Around the halfway point I'll steer the jam towards speculation -- what's going to happen that we don't expect?
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Spiders And Elephants – Social Connections And Big Data Will Determine The Next Big Winners And Losers

I’ve been following a couple of 2011 developments that together may determine the next big technology winners and losers. To get your click, I’ve been obscure in my title.

Spiders refers to the battle for control of the webs that connect us all together. Google won the first race by connecting webs of content, and now the second race is on for control of the social web. Facebook dominates the personal market, while LinkedIn has carved out a niche with professionals and now challenges its big cousin. Finally, latecomer Google (anybody see the irony?) may just sneak up on both by capitalizing on their respective weaknesses.

So what?

Consider this: The winner will control the web of social data. What people like, who they know who likes similar stuff, and where these potential customers are. This is powerful stuff that companies are just beginning to figure out. For example, a mobile app identifies five people in your condo complex who are big scuba divers, and one is on the boat trip with you right now. By helping you make connnections, the app’s developer can now sell marketing data to dive boat charters that then can offer you a group discount to come back together with your other new connections. Clearly, the company in control of this data will be in the center of a market worth a mind-blowing amount of money.

Elephants is an allusion to Hadoop and Horton, two pachyderms that represent that growing interest in big data technology. Eric Baldeschwieler, former Hadoop project leader at Yahoo and now CEO of Hortonworks, went so far as to state, “. . . We anticipate that within five years, more than half the world's data will be stored in Apache Hadoop.”

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Enterprise Data Management Is Not The Holy Grail

From my first days as a baby architect, I was spoon-fed the idea that enterprise data management (EDM) was the solution to our data woes. Some call it enterprise information management or other names that mean a holistic approach to managing data that is business led and centered on stewardship and governance. The DMBOK provides a picture that describes this concept very well — check it out.

Here’s the problem: Most firms are not able to internalize this notion and act accordingly. There are myriad reasons why this is so, and we can all list off a bunch of them if we put our minds to it. Top of my list is that the lure of optimizing for next quarter often outweighs next year’s potential benefits.

Here’s another problem: Most EAs cannot do much about this. We are long-term, strategic people who can clearly see the benefits of EDM, which may lead us to spend a lot of time promoting the virtues of this approach. As a result, we get bloody bruises on our heads and waste time that could be spent doing more-productive things.

I do think that taking a long-term, holistic approach is the best thing to do; in my recently published report "Big Opportunities In Big Data," I encourage readers to maintain this attitude when considering data at extreme scale. We need to pursue short-term fixes as well. Let me go a step further and say that making short-term progress on nagging data management issues with solutions that take months not years is more important to our firms than being the EDM town crier. Hopefully my rationale is clear: We can be more effective this way as long as our recommendations keep the strategic in mind.

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