New Drivers of the IT Landscape
Social, Mobile, Cloud, Information
Information Technology is on the cusp of a revolution not seen since the days when the Internet started becoming the dominant channel for information exchange and communication in the 1990s. The advent of the Internet gave rise to rapid innovation and brought forth business models which stirred the foundation of traditional brick & mortar companies. Something similar has begun to happen in the last few years and this time the change is coming with the convergence of four domains, which Gartner calls “The Nexus of Forces”
- Information (Big Data)
This “Nexus of Forces” was a unifying theme across various talks and sessions in the just concluded Gartner Symposium ITxpo in Orlando last week. For the same reason, I was compelled to write this blog post to highlight the quiet, but fundamental transition that is occurring across the IT landscape.
Gartner’s keynote speaker, Peter Sondergaard (SVP, Research), made a profound statement in his speech, proposing that “the Nexus of mobile, social, cloud and information will make existing architectures obsolete”. This statement by itself should make business and IT leaders start rethinking their strategies to play and compete in this environment effectively. In my opinion, the biggest transition hurdles are always faced by established companies as internal politics, bureaucracy and long decision making process can delay policies and procedures necessary to adapt to such changes. Start-ups and smaller but nimble players can quickly grab the opportunities and in some cases even set the direction of the change.
“ The Nexus of mobile, social, cloud and information will make existing architectures obsolete ”
Peter Sondergaard, SVP Research, Gartner
Let’s discuss briefly how these forces are impacting the world around us.
Social media is not only changing the behavior of consumers and their interactions with companies but also generating huge amount of structured and unstructured data that is feeding directly into the “information” (or big data) piece of this nexus. Companies have to get really smart with how they manage social media within their organizations and also externally with respect to customers. Many vendors have started integrating a social component into their existing products allowing customers to work more collaboratively and share information with colleagues immediately saving valuable time and money. Such collaboration also has indirect benefits as it makes the work environment more fun for the employees and helps in employee retention.
Companies such as Amazon rely heavily on social media for customer feedback as it allows them to continuously improve their product offerings and services around them.
Kerrie Holey, an IBM Fellow and CTO for IBM Global Business Services, suggested in his Gartner session that these social platforms will eventually evolve into “Adaptive Social Platforms interconnected with enterprise data and processes, instrumented with knowledge and made intelligent through differentiating analytics”.
Social media works both ways – it not only creates a channel to enhance customer experience but also enable customers to add value back to the companies. I will call this a “value bridge” where the benefits flow both ways. This value bridge is a paradigm shift in the business landscape and will be a guiding factor in the coming years as companies adjust their business models to meet customer demands and expectations.
The mobile component is very closely related to the social aspect. Wide spread proliferation of mobile devices and platforms and their increasing processing power have enabled the companies to port a whole variety of business applications to these devices. Consumers now have access to the business applications from a variety of devices, which will lead to more business and profits for companies who are ahead on this game. Mobile devices have also made the social media much more easily accessible to the consumers hence the usage of the same has increased exponentially. Companies have started leveraging the mobile component to market their products and services to a much wider audience at a much lower cost. I believe that companies must incorporate both social and mobile as part of their business strategy as leaving out either one is like reaching to the customers with just one hand.
The third piece of this nexus is Cloud. This is going to be a big game changer over the next 4-5 years as more and more organizations move their IT infrastructure and data over to the cloud environment. Companies like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and IBM have already made huge bets in this area and have invested billions. With state of the art virtualization the cloud can help organizations reduce IT costs, deliver desired operational outcomes and help focus on their core business.
Cloud offers organizations (big and small) multitude of options such as PaaS, IaaS, SaaS or other kind of metered services without having to worry about setting up and maintaining the costly infrastructure.
Cloud in combination with the mobile devices makes the dream of information being everywhere a reality. Security is one of the central issues slowing a wider adoption of cloud but given the clear benefits such as the flexibility of infrastructure, ubiquitous information and significant IT related cost savings gives me the confidence that in the near future consumer trust on the cloud network security will be as good as or better than the in-house networks.
The fourth piece of the nexus puzzle and possibly the one with the most impact is Information or Big Data. It is interesting to note that social, mobile and cloud all three are driving the big data by feeding billions of bytes of data every day.
As per the recent statistics, Google processes approximately 24 petabytes (= 1015 bytes) of data every day. That is mind boggling!
As we can see the companies have a huge challenge in their hands as they try to figure out how to process this enormous amount of data to further enhance customer experience and accelerate the enterprise growth. Analytics is already playing a key role in understanding this data and its role is only going to expand in the future as companies fiercely compete with each other to grab the ever shrinking market share.
Mr. Holley in his Gartner speech provided an interesting insight into big data, he mentioned in addition to three key aspects – Volume, Velocity and Variety - of big data there is a 4th dimension and that is Veracity, which refers to “Data in Doubt”. What I believe, Mr. Holley was trying to emphasize that companies in their rush to handle big data should not overlook this 4th dimension as a significant portion of big data is not clearly defined and its authenticity may be in question. Special efforts must be dedicated to resolve this data in doubt as it can not only impact the integrity of your overall data but can also shed light onto several unknowns that may help shape your long term strategy.
In its 2012 survey of about 2000 CEOs, IBM found that “Technology” is the number one external factor that will affect their business over the next 5 years. That is an encouraging sign for many of us affiliated with IT. Especially, with social, mobile, cloud and information becoming the forces of innovation and drivers of new revenue streams, I personally see a brighter future ahead for not only the technology companies but more importantly for the customers as they are the one going to benefit the most with the convergence of these forces.
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