By Charlie Bess, Fellow – Office of Strategy and Technology, HP Labs
It isn’t really news that the business environment-at-large has changed significantly over the last five to six years. Nor is it news that IT systems are going to have to change dramatically to support the new business environment. But what will this change look like? What low visibility trends are lurking under the surface as IT enters 2012?
Because of the sharp downturn in the economy, many organizations have not been investing. They entered a lockdown mode, conserving cash resources while reallocating labor and technology assets. Yet during this lockdown phase, IT continued to evolve. The result: we not only have a buildup of incremental IT innovation, we also have an enterprise environment largely out of synch with state-of-the-art processes.
When enterprises finally begin spending again, they will be investing in an IT model substantially different from what they are accustomed to using. System capabilities have increased dramatically. The applications environment has shifted with the growing adoption of open source code. Sensors are proliferating. Mobile computing is approaching ubiquity.
An abundance of data
In the past, our systems were based on scarcity: never enough data, computing power, or networking capability. Today, IT has essentially entered a world of abundance—there is so much more of everything. The cloud, big data, rapid rates of process automation—not all organizations have embraced these transformative currents. As a result, they will be playing catch-up when they get ready to spend … and it will be disruptive.
When you shift from an environment of scarcity to one of abundance, many of the issues you have spent time worrying about are no longer relevant. Where you once scrambled for data, you now must scramble to make sense of massive bombardments of data streams. Skillsets that include pattern recognition and a keen sense of context will become essential. Organizations that broaden their thought processes and imaginations to accommodate this expanse in capability will gain a competitive edge.
Other skillsets will grow in demand. The competitive drive for collaboration is coming into direct conflict with privacy and security. The “how can I lock it down?” perimeter-based security paradigm is no longer workable, yet security is more crucial than ever. Organizations must learn to balance the “how can I open it up?” collaborative drive with the necessity of keeping sensitive data secure and contained.
The social media shift
The stand-alone application is dead. It has evolved into an aggregation of services made available throughout the enterprise. Some of these services may be internal, and some may be subscribed services in the cloud. Processes once executed by standalone applications will be integrated throughout the organization and into the supplier and customer domains as well.
Also this year, social media will undergo disruptive change. There is far too much overlap among existing social media platforms. MySpace has long been in decline. Facebook may have plateaued. Google+, hot and new when it entered the social media space last summer, is losing momentum. It is unlikely to survive in its current form.
Social media platforms must develop differentiators—such as LinkedIn with its business space specialization—to survive. Platforms that can apply predictive analytic and pattern recognition processes to fashion, trend, demographic, and interaction data will gain an advantage. These capabilities can be used to develop social tools that enhance and expand the user experience, as well as generate revenue. With the abundance of computational power out there, it won’t be long before new players disrupt the social apple cart and force consolidation.
This is a great time to be in the information technology business. IT is moving away from a cost-cutting opportunity to a value and business opportunity generator. We are now in an environment with more possibilities, more new capabilities, and more options than ever before. Those organizations with the vision to inspire new ways to look at these possibilities and new models to utilize them will dominate the years to come.
Hear more from Charlie on 2012 opportunities for the enterprise in the Innovation INSIGHT webcast, 2012: The Year of Disruption - Reading Between the Lines for Enterprise IT.