Even through the downturn the pace of change in the technology landscape in the last several years has moved at a breakneck pace. Transformations in the marketplace itself as well as major new trends in culture and society are putting concerted pressure on businesses and IT departments to find new ways to adapt. Powerful new technologies such as cloud computing and open supply chains have appeared on the stage that are dramatically changing what is possible as well as how much it costs.
Generational shifts are also contributing to this "future shock" with millenial workers expecting modern workplaces that are up-to-date with the latest capabilities including social software, mobile applications, and self-service IT. Many organizations I speak with, particularly in government and financial services, report that they just can't attract the best talent if their workplace is clearly behind the times.
All of this is a lot to manage to and plan for, but today's leaner, recession-impacted organizations often have to do more with less while changing the way they have to think about what they do. Thus, to help get a strategic map of what's lying at the intersection of IT and business this fall, I thought I'd kick off my inaugural post here on ebizQ with a look at the top 18 emerging topics that will likely to be significant to most organizations in 2009.
As you can see in the visual below, I've tried to map whether these changes are business or technology ones, or as is often the case, both. Each one is classified as to whether it's a brand-new area, is in early adoption, or if it's an approach that is being revisited. The latter classification is usually due to new ways of using it or if there has been a broad rethinking of the subject that's likely to spur a new wave of adoption, such as is probable with SOA. Finally, using color coding, I've tried to identify whether the trend will affect mission critical systems, central functions, or just edge areas of the organizations. There is a legend for these at the bottom.
Below is a breakdown of each of the topics above, many of which I'll be exploring here in depth in coming months. Some of these will initiate far reaching changes to an organization like Social CRM, Open APIs, and SOA + WOA, while others will have notable impact but be far more localized initially like microblogging and Mobile Office. Note that these are in alphabetical order and not in order of importance, which will vary for each organization.
18 Emerging Business/IT Topics for 2009
- Automated Risk Management. The proliferation of interconnected systems and data in most organizations increasingly spells trouble as complexity mounts in today's IT landscape. This is particularly the case as application silos get opened up and SOA achieves deeper interconnections between far-flung parts of organizations. Ensuring that new and modified business applications continue to comply with industry regulations and corporate policy in a world where enterprise mashups and lightweight agile processes are becoming more common is essential. Software support for this space is growing but still limited.
- BPM. Process optimization and automation has been a popular topic since the advent of the first workflow systems. However, the recent rise of truly effective BPM tools and standards has ushered in a new area of business process design and automation for the average organization. BPM was previously common mostly in highly process-oriented and/or strongly procedural organizations. In particular, tools that make BPM accessible and usable by line staff are becoming a practical reality. Tools such as the open source ProcessMaker and Intalio are good examples of what's leading the pack from a technology perspective but the advent of emergent architecture (see below) is combining with BPM to create a close connection with the business.
- Cloud Computing. By offering economies of scale, access to innovative new application models, agility gains, and reduction in the costs of management and support, cloud computing has a bright future in most organizations despite ongoing reservations about security, control, and performance. A recent survey found that 22% of organizations were already using cloud computing for business critical applications. While most organizations are still kicking the tires, either by creating private clouds or using public ones for testing purposes, cloud computing offers compelling cost and time-to-market opportunities for most organizations this year.
- Crowdsourcing. In a seminal new piece, the Wall Street Journal recently explored how technology is allowing us to tap into new wells of innovation that were previously too expensive or difficult to reach. Organizations now have access to virtually everyone on the planet over the Web and can invite them to participate in co-creating new products, improving existing ones, or otherwise transforming their ideation and decision making processes. Taken from the model of open source software, crowdsourcing has become an increasingly popular technique with numerous success stories such as the Netflix prize or Threadless, a community-designed clothing store. The software, however, to enable this business model for most organizations is just in its infancy and most solutions are homegrown, though LG famously used Crowdspring recently to design one of their phones.
- Content Discovery. Enterprise search has largely been a disappointment in most organizations, until recently. The ongoing improvements to classical ECM and DMS systems combined with social computing models such as Enterprise 2.0 and Web-Oriented Architecture are finally surfacing (and creating) large amounts of content, making it relevant and reachable via internal search engines, often just because newer social media tools encourage the forging of links. The insistent demands for E-Discovery and content exploitation combined with renewed attempts in reaching submerged information in databases, documents, file systems, and applications is beginning to reap rewards in many organizations. This is often due to overhauls to enterprise architecture as well as the deployment of more modern and increasingly open versions of business applications, even if enterprise search engines are not improving much in and of themselves.
- Emergent Architecture. The discipline of enterprise architecture is evolving and becoming more collaborative and inclusive, yet more autonomous as well. Arising from resource constraints as well as software solutions that can be more directly guided by the business, emergent architecture is getting a considerable attention this year as an approach to IT and business architecture that can successfully combine grassroots, bottom-up initiative with the needs of the enterprise in an efficient, agile, robust, and adaptive way.
- Enterprise 2.0. Coined by Harvard Business School professor Andrew Mcafee, Enterprise 2.0 refers to the application of social tools to freeform collaboration in the workplace. Blogs, wikis, and social networking software are typical examples of such tools and with about half of all organizations globally deploying Enterprise 2.0 applications this year. It's likely that early adoption status won't last long for this category of productivity and knowledge retention software.
- Enterprise Mashups. The mashup approach to software development is now so common on the Web that it's hardly remarked upon, but it's still fairly rare in the enterprise. Organizations such as JackBe, IBM, and others are changing this and bringing the ability to create applications extremely rapidly (typically in hours or days) by building on top of existing business services and accessing stores of enterprise data. Business intelligence is one of the most sought after types of application at a strategic level in most organizations and are one of the most likely places you'll see enterprise mashups first, in the form of dashboards and management consoles.
- Microblogging. While many Web 2.0 tools are flourishing in the workplace, blogs have lagged behind, often because of the time and writing skills required to fully exploit them. Microblogging, with the canonical example of the popular service Twitter, can solve this by constraining what is shared socially to small chunks of information, which take less time to produce and consume. Microblogging can create valuable information streams within organizations and broad situational awareness, often to the point that RSS feeds are not required to keep track of key information coming in from across the organization and the Web. While enterprise-class versions of microblogging tools have emerged, most notably SocialText Signals and Yammer, adoption will be uneven though quite strong in some organizations this year.
- Mobile Office. The arrival of Apple's iPhone ensured that palmtop business computing wouldn't be far behind. The desktop-class Web browser and addition of an App Store to the iPhone proved that usable business computing devices could be much smaller than the laptop. This has made the smartphone market one of the brightest places in the technology world this year and opens up a new front for software developers -- both commercial and enterprise -- as users demand access to their business data and functionality from their phones. Expect to see a growing focus on business software for mobile devices increase throughout the fall.
- Non-relational databases. While the debate about relational vs. non-relational databases continues, there are just some applications that greatly benefit from new forms of storing and accessing very large amounts of data or work better using a document-centric model. While these type of apps are often coming from the Web world, non-relational databases such as CouchDB, Amazon SimpleDB, Mongo, Scalaris are creating compelling new models for application storage, often in a very Web-oriented way.
- Open APIs. Taking your private SOA, opening it up to partners, and attaching a business model to it is still something that mostly Web companies do, but an growing number of traditional businesses are opening up their data to partners now in a form of decentralized, self-service business development. The federal government is also following the lead and has been opening up data sets to the world over the Web with initiatives such as data.gov. As Amazon has longed proved, there is major revenue in cloud services if you only have compelling capabilities or data to offer the marketplace, which most businesses do. The challenge is that APIs require a different set of business skills and mindset, so it's only early adopters at this point, but major success stories have already emerged. View John Musser's great State of the API Market for details.
- Productivity-Oriented Programming Platforms (POPPs). Developing Web applications, which is an increasingly large segment of the business application development market, has been getting consistently easier and faster over the last few years using the latest productivity-oriented languages and frameworks such as Ruby combined with Rails, Java and Grails, or PHP and CakePHP. There are often as much as 5-10x productivity improvements with these platforms that greatly reduce the amount of development time yet use the latest best practices and approaches to software development. While Java and .NET remain the dominant platforms for enterprises today, the growth in new software development is increasingly going to the POPPs. Not insignificantly, developers also tend to prefer working with them though actual job openings still dominate with older languages and platforms.
- Real-Time Security. With social computing tools and mashups potentially creating data spills and exposed services with vital business functions, security tools that can identify a myried of problems in the enterprise architecture stack in very short amounts of time are of increasing interest. The window in which "the horse can leave the barn" before the door is shut is growing smaller. Security tools must be able to almost instantly detect worms, trojans, security holes, XSS attacks, data leaks and other problems. These are caused not only by flaws in traditional applications but in Web 2.0 software in particular, which tend to be much more open and change more frequently. There are a growing number of vendors which supply such solutions which include Ajax and social media filters and other capabilities.
- SOA + WOA. Service-oriented architecture remains the top level organizing principle for enterprise IT and business systems today. However, the lackluster returns that were often achieved frequently resulted in low ROI and subsequent disillusionment. While the whole history of SOA is too detailed to go into here, new simpler and lighterweight models, including Web-Oriented Architecture, are pointing the likely way forward. In short, while SOA has famously struggled of late, it remains the best model for how to architect our enterprises and pragmatic techniques are coming from the Web to help make it more effective on the ground. In short, SOA will get a second shot in most organizations.
- Social CRM. The world of customer relationship management is getting a big Web 2.0 makeover this year. Companies such as Helpstream, Lithium, and others are remaking the staid corporate CRM into one in which much more value is mutually exchanged with the marketplace.
- Social Computing. While Enterprise 2.0 and Social CRM are also on this list (and are subsets of Social Computing), there is a broader transformation taking place in many organizations right now that includes the strategic application of social software to real business problems. These include social media marketing, vertical industry-specific social networks, and social business models. While Social Computing adoption has been taking place for years, 2009 is proving to be a major year for many organizations.
- Unified Communication. The world of UC is getting much harder now that so many new communication channels are proliferating. While online services such as Friendfeed have figured out how to centralize social activity effectively, unified communication is just starting to catch up. Even organizations that have effectively deployed UC in the past will have to do it again to account for the social computing and mobile waves that are hitting them this year.
Please enclose your own thoughts on what's going to be big this fall in IT and business below in comments.