If you sit through any Forrester presentation--and here in Las Vegas, for the IT Forum, you can hear lots of them--you'll hear something about the transition from information technology (IT) to business technology (BT). No longer can technology vendors "fire and forget" technology, under the assumption that their clients will figure out the business case for it. Immediate, tangible benefit is increasingly important in product design and product marketing.
IT Forum is a good opportunity to further measure this trend. When you spend a few days shoulder-to-shoulder with clients, vendors, and fellow analysts, you get a lot of pings on the BT sonar. For example:
A long time ago, in a much different job in a galaxy far, far, away, we used to joke that there were three product roadmaps: (1) the customer-facing one, which was laconic to the point of uselessness; (2) the official roadmap for the product team; and (3) the architect's super-double-secret roadmap.
On the other end of the continuum, you have companies like Salesforce, which is willing to make its roadmap visible, to a very substantial extent, to anyone browsing the corporate web site. Salesforce won't tell you everything they're doing, like potential acquisitions or partnerships. However, the IdeaExchange drives product enhancements in a very transparent way.
Most technology companies aren't willing to make their roadmaps as visible as Salesforce's, but the percentage that are increases daily. Open source may have given a cultural boost: anyone with strong enough motivation could add new functionality to the project. However, the open source community won't convince a CEO that it's a good idea to make a commercial product's direction visible to everyone--including competitors.