Champions Of Change: The App Dev & Delivery Role In 2020

Can you remember what life was like 10 years ago? How were your personal life and professional life different than they are today? Here are a few reminders about life in 2001:

  1. Smartphones weren't nearly as smart or ubiquitous, and the iPad, iPod, iTunes, and App Store didn't exist yet.
  2. Social media wasn't very social — Twitter was a verb, not a social media outlet, and Facebook was an odd way to refer to a photo album.
  3. The World Trade Center twin towers still stood in Manhattan.
  4. The financial meltdown over subprime mortgages hadn't yet occurred.
  5. East Timor, Montenegro, Serbia, and Kosovo were not yet independent nations.
  6. To even conceive that the Arab Spring revolutions could occur in one country, let alone several . . .

Well, you get the idea: A lot can happen in 10 years. What's the point? We're encouraging you to take a few minutes to consider how your life will change over the next 10 years — what are the changes the next decade holds for the AD&D role? Why bother? Because if we don't look up from our day-to-day, all-consuming priorities to ponder our future, then we can't plan for it, and if we don't plan for it, we will be victims of change instead of champions of change. We can follow several of today's trends to the future and see that fundamental change is coming to the application development and delivery function and by extension all of the roles within. But, we will also be driven by business change — as it changes, so shall we. So brainstorm the idea — forget about the how we'll get there, and imagine what 2020 may look like for applications professionals as:

Business models change from re-act to re-al time.

  • In 2020, sensors are everywhere, providing a wealth of real-time information that shortens time-to-insight/knowledge and up-ending traditional business models.
  • Traditional supply chain models that build products then warehouse them for distribution and sale have given way to systems that sense and build on demand.
  • Payment, procurement, and logistics processes have all changed to match the new model.
  • Just as today, upstart competitors can leverage cheap computing resources to smash traditional barriers to entry in mature market places — but unlike today, upstarts will appear in markets thought to be untouchable in 2011

 Technical advances enable a shift to compute-everywhere

  • The explosion of sensors brings an explosion of data: Making information from data by combining multiple disparate, dynamically joined sources is an industry unto itself.
  • Data storage and information taxonomies and standards will become critically important.
  • The smart device in your hand has more computing capacity than today's most powerful laptops, making your smart device of 2011 look imbecilic by comparison.
  • Advances in wireless network bandwidth have enabled ubertablet devices with holographic displays to completely cannibalize the desktop/laptop market.
  • Cloud computing is now the de facto platform, enabled by advances in data security technology, wireless security, and data privacy technology and by the commoditization of network bandwidth costs.
  • Every app is social and mobile — we want access to everything from everywhere; in fact, the term "application" is a legacy concept, as software has developed to the point where you invoke agents from a smart device that trigger activity throughout an ecosystem of cloud-based, on-premise, and hand-held computing devices.
  • SaaS is the de facto model for ERP and other nondifferentiating business functions. On-premise ERP is a thing of the past, and on-premise development is reserved for software that differentiates you from your competitors.


  • The world around you senses and responds to your presence, enabling self-driving automobiles, self-replenishing home appliances, and a slew of on-demand services.
  •  Boomer retirement is in the middle of a 10-year-long peak, and the rise of the Millennials fundamentally reshapes traditional corporate hierarchies.
  • Once-great nations wane as new upstarts flex their political and purchasing power, forever shifting the balance of power.

Your Forrester AD&D team is looking ahead to 2020 — you'll see it in a keynote presentation by Mike Gilpin and Jeffrey Hammond at Forrester's Application Development & Delivery Forum 2011 in Boston September 22-23, and you'll see it in the form of a research theme throughout the next several months. How can you participate? Join this discussion by answering (or asking) a few forward-looking questions based on some of the 2020 speculation above:

  • How will the roles fulfilled by Application Development & Delivery Professionals change to meet than challenges of the new world order?
  • How will we reshape our roles and relationships with business leaders to enable more business growth and success?
  • What will an AD&D team in 2020 look like? How will we source to win?
  • What companies and leaders of today are so leading edge that they may help us point the way to life in 2020 and can help us separate the speculative wheat from the chafe?

We are actively pursuing this topic on several fronts. Please join the discussion, nominate the "leaders of tomorrow" that may be good interview candidates for our ongoing research, and begin to ponder the question for your own benefit. Participate to be a champion of change!


Enterprise Architecture Impact on Apps Development

Thank you very much for a very insightful article on the evolution of Applications Development in the next decade. It behooves us to champion these changes rather than be passive onlookers. After reading your post, I took a step back and considered the Top 5 Tenets of Enterprise Architecture that impact Applications Development that I outline in another post.

Interestingly enough, I am finding that these tenets will continue to be true even more so in the future despite the shifting paradigms and emerging technologies.

Framing the future

Phil, thanks for starting to frame the future. As we discussed this morning, making some assumptions and inferring a possible future provides a reference point. Broadening this out, you're touching (I think) on four futures -- social, business, technical and applications (which, large though it may seem, is small in the context of the others).

The social future looks like being much more global, and much more connected (even than today), with an implication of a requirement for whole new sets of "rules" for how interactions take place. Consider, for instance, the privacy implications of a transaction that "follows" the individual across multiple locations and platforms, through multiple media.

From a business perspective, the whole notion of "product" is changing. Build to order becomes the norm. ("What do you mean, I can't have it in size 5 light grey because there's no demand?"). The kind of shift that Amazon is driving for books takes place in any business where a "product" can be digitized. (And a curious kind of reintermediation may occur, where people start subscribing to "guide" services, because finding what you want for yourself is just too hard). Perhaps the employer / employee nexus is radically changed, also, so that many more of us are contractors dividing our time between multiple employers.

I think most of your technology predictions are right on, except that I wouldn't be surprise if "the device in your hand" didn't disappear. Access points are universal -- all you carry is the device that identifies you. And your identity is "contextual" -- All the (digital) world's a stage, and all the men and women merely (bit) players; they have their exits and entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts. Your presence is maintained in the Cloud, and appropriately rendered depending on the capabilities of the access point you use and your current role.
Many more capabilities become "utility" (you speculated about 1 SAP in the Cloud, with companies buying as much access as they need ... I think that makes sense).

Even a few of the wild-eyed speculations would have huge impact on the AD world. in fact, as we said, I'm not sure AD will even be the right term/discipline. I think it might be more like "model driven process enablement". Maybe even multiple levels, with one set of Professionals building uber-apps, another set delivering enterprise process support, and a third set providing support to individuals ...
But there is one huge caveat ... legacies (as we all know) ... linger...

Framing the future

Thanks Ian, great insights - the first post gave intentionally light treatment to many topics to encourage our colleagues to pile-on with their vision of the future - more to come. I'm intrigued by the "no device" mobile device - except that which uniquely identifies me to the access points around me. The ramifications on applications are significant:
1) Globally standardized and unique identifier for me and the governance to go with it
2) Security and privacy issues that it raises - Can I shut it off when I don't want to be "sensed / detected?"
3) Criminal abuse of the new capabilities
4) Opt in and out of location-based service offferings
etc, etc.

Interesting and difficult

Interesting and difficult exercise. My stab at this… I agree with the cloud and specifically SaaS being the primary vehicle through which we will use applications/services and this irrespective of the device(s) being used. In a way this just a linear extrapolation of what we are seeing today, so still probably off the mark by 2020. Perhaps the missing link here would be that we are no longer carrying the device but that it is somewhat implanted in us and that we have access to it through some projected holographic UI (not unlike the interface of say Iron Man except without carrying a helmet). Nonetheless, I would contend that this is probably the easier (NB, easier…not easy) aspect to guess . A notion that is still relevant to this discussion I think is that of hardware vs. software. Granted cloud computing and the various XaaS are really a platform and not exclusively hardware. There is still in my view a dichotomy between on the one hand the platform (the plumbing which will be constituted of physical servers, networks, VMs, OSes, devices, etc ) and on the other hand the service/application being delivered. One thought I have, is that despite the significant technological progress we have made on the “plumbing” side, the service/application side from a development and delivery perspective has not nearly progressed as much. That is not to say no progress was made, but that in comparison to the “plumbing” side, we have not seen the same orders of magnitude . To be sure, there has been, high-level languages, structured programming, Object- oriented programming , 4GLs, SOA, etc of all which helped from a various perspectives: productivity, quality, agility. Application Lifecycle Management (ALM), should improve collaboration and speed-up the development process further, but that’s essentially saying we: “will do things a little bit better, and a little bit faster” and yes this little can be significant in terms of time or money saved . The perception of time is changing radically as well, social media has managed to further shorten our expectations from “internet time” towards “tweeter time”. So where does that leave us for 2020? Perhaps the vision of 2020 for application development and delivery is one where there is a paradigm shift in the act of developing software. One where at the highest level of abstraction non-programmers can define applications, and do so in a way that is not overly technical. Visually and or/verbally generated most certainly, sharable in parts or whole and likely modifiable by others. People today on facebook, linked-in, tweeter, google docs, etc share thoughts, pictures, videos…what if they could share just as easily applications they put together in a matter of hours ? What if the social media fabric on the cloud was the de facto universal software platform? What if traditional software vendors were to provide higher level of abstractions on top of some of their core APIs in this type of platform ? What if businesses would agree to providing this type of services interfaces access as well? . Your traditional packaged software company would essentially become a cloud API provider or more accurately a Service Programming Interface provider, SPI….Who makes the glue to all this ? And what is the organization or intelligence required to collect and structure this information ….Cloud based intelligent services agents/robots with a hint of semantic web, anyone ?

Great premise. I think one of

Great premise.

I think one of the biggest shifts over the next 10 years in enterprise IT will be user expectations. A generation that has always had internet connectivity, who lives a big part of their social lives online and spends more time in web applications than watching tv will make up the business users IT will need to satisfy. And if corporate IT can not provide that user experience, agility and functionality they expect, they will bypass corporate IT and go and deploy SaaS solutions themselves. "I can see what my kindergarten friend had for dinner, but I can not see what our inventory per product is in real time?"

There will be some hurdles: integration problems, security breaches and infrastructure issues. But those are temporary and I truly believe the SaaS wave is unstoppable.

And then, if I may dream for moment, after 40 years, we as an industry will have finally delivered something more compelling than spreadsheets :-)