2011 IBM Tech Trends Report: The Clouds are Rolling In... Is Your Business Ready?
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IBM developerWorks just released their 2011 Tech Trends Report. There's no big surprise on the hottest IT trends for the next 2 years – Business Analytics, Mobile Computing, Cloud Computing and Social Business. But as an MBA and PMP, I'm more interested in cutting through the hype to help our customers understand, find and harness the business value of these technologies for IT and LOB executives.
I'm fortunate enough to have a pretty good vantage point, working for an IBM Premier Business Partner that develops applications and integrates business solutions based on IBM middleware. On the one hand, we're trying to assimilate these technologies from a technical perspective. On the other hand, we're working with customers who keep asking us for advice on where to start or what to do; they need a road map. Wasn't it Hall of Famer Yogi Berra who said something like “If you don't know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else”?
So, here's how I see it:
Business Analytics – Most businesses are struggling to make sense of the massive amounts of data they are accumulating. Industry analysts like IDC say there's been a 50+% growth in storage capacity over the last couple of years. Compression and data-deduplication can help slow the pace, but will only take you so far in reducing IT costs. The real opportunity is in a company's ability to mine their data and content using BA tools, to gain more insight into their customers and markets, and to streamline and automate core business processes using BPM, ECM and BRMS tools, to reduce time to market and increase responsiveness to changing customer expectations. Starting with areas such as sales analysis or the purchase-to-payment cycle is usually low risk and can deliver a quick payback.
Mobile Computing – Considering the business focus of the survey, I was shocked to see where RIM's Blackberry OS ranked among mobile development platforms (at 25%, a distant fourth to Android, iOS and Windows 7). With Adobe dropping Flash for mobile devices, I guess we made the right decision to go with HTML5 as our standard for developing mobile apps that can be easily deployed on multiple platforms and devices. As the initial wave of consumer apps subsides, I believe the business value of mobile computing will come from extending internally-focused core business applications and processes to an increasing population of mobile employees, customers and trading partners. Applications such as dispatching deliveries to truck drivers on the road, doing physical inventory counts in the warehouse, capturing insurance applications from agents and brokers or claims documents from adjustors, taking sales orders during a customer visit, etc.
Cloud Computing – IT and LOB are attracted to Cloud Computing for different reasons – IT for the speed and efficiency of provisioning IT resources, LOB for new revenue streams, faster time to market and increased agility. Cloud Computing is the industrialization of IT, providing standardization, automation and self-service. Moving up the spectrum from IaaS to PaaS and SaaS will deliver increasing levels of standardization, OPEX savings and time to value. The key is to determine which workloads to cloud-enable and through which deployment model (private, public or hybrid). The logical choices are to start with IaaS or PaaS for development and test environments, from an infrastructure perspective, and building or using SaaS applications to handle new business requirements. Either way, the key is to start simple, in order to assimilate the implications of the Cloud on security, data residency/ownership and application/process integration.
Social Business – Social Business technologies will likely have the greatest impact of all on how people and organizations work together to innovate and create business value. But it is also still the “Wild West” of IT – while organizations are trying to figure out how to tap into the power and reach of Facebook, LinkedIn, Skype and Google, they are also learning about the new challenges these social media tools are creating for businesses in terms of security, data privacy and employee productivity. Starting with internal deployments and a more interactive web site may offer the most controlled approach to satisfy any company's corporate governance requirements.
One thing I know for sure is that all of these trends are highly interconnected. Facebook, LinkedIn, Skype and Google are amongst the largest cloud-based social media tools out there today, with millions of people accessing them through mobile devices. The amount of data being created is staggering and the potential to extract business value from it will require sophisticated Analytics tools. IBM's Watson has great possibilities, especially when it will become affordable and available for mid market businesses – think “WaaS” (“Watson as a Service”).
However, as these technologies mash together, the number of systems and inter-dependencies will continue to increase rapidly, which will result in higher failure rates. Is this the calm before the storm? If so, good planning and governance is the umbrella and will be critical.
One final note: You'll find some very interesting details on deeper analysis of the report. For example, there were twice the number of survey respondents this year compared to last year, with significant participation from the BRIC countries. Have a look at my colleague Henry's deep dive analysis of the survey data (using IBM Cognos Express, a Business Analytics tool from IBM), which reveals some geographical and other variances in the trends (link here).