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Tech for Tomorrow

Doug Mow

Ready or Not, Here Comes the Future

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This past conference season I had the opportunity to attend two compelling presentations that addressed significant issues and trends in the world of IT.  The first examined current IT portfolios and compared many organizations' IT environments to closets full of clothing.  The second discussed the need to overhaul the enterprise application estate.  Both declared a need to create a more streamlined, agile, flexible technology foundation capable of supporting business requirements for the next 25 years.

Yvonne Genovese was the presenter for the first of the sessions.  She stood in front of the audience in a red outfit and told the audience that she had shopped for the outfit for that occasion.  She then said that she has a policy to throw out two things whenever she buys something new.  Her intention is to keep her inventory low and manageable.  But, she never does and now she has three red outfits.  She declared that enterprise IT is no better than her closet.  Full of one-time applications, it is a byproduct of excess spending without inventory management and application retirement.  "How many applications have we thrown out?" she admonished the group.  No wonder business agility is compromised and costs are up.  IT keeps acquiring applications without cleaning out the closet.  Application rationalization is the equivalent of the closet purge but it never happens.

Andy Kyte was the speaker for the second of the sessions.  His point was the twentieth century application is dead.  The siloed, monolithic IT approach to supporting the business has not changed substantially in the past twenty five years.  Sure we have new OS releases and new three letter acronyms to label our applications but the processing profile has remained essentially unchanged.  It's time to replace these applications one at a time to modernize the IT landscape.  A new era has begun fueled by high speed communications, mobile computing and social networking. 

He challenged the audience to think back 25 years and assess the profile of enterprise IT.  The compute paradigm has not changed.  He then asked the audience to think forward 25 years, to imagine a technology world that leverages tablets, high speed wireless networks, video, social, cloud, SaaS, and technologies that have yet to be developed.  In twenty five years, the applications must be different. 

The reason it must be different is a significant shift in demographics in large areas of the world.  In 2010, those born in 1990 were twenty years old. Within five years they will be purchasing large volumes of products and services.  In ten years, this generation will be the dominant consumers of goods and services in the US.  The lifestyle of this generation is largely based on technology.  As timeline reference, microwave ovens became commercially available in the early 80's.  Cell phones started to become widely available in the early 90's.  This is a Facebook generation that will require a far different process and interface to sell to.  This is a video game generation whose game consoles are more powerful than entire data centers were in the 60's.  What changes will current IT infrastructures need to support? 


Think of any purchasing or subscription process that requires a substantial amount of traditional "paperwork".  Insurance policies, hospital check in, auto purchase, financial services, mobile service, cable television - anything that asks you to fill out the same information over and over on paper.  This generation has no patience for that.  They conduct dozens of text message conversations simultaneously.  Any organization that hopes to acquire their business must streamline and automate their processes and offer them online.  Those that do not will lose market share to more "current" vendors and providers.

So what we have is a mess in dire need of cleaning up.  We have a market that demands different processes and interfaces to earn their business.  Is this an opportunity or a threat?  Done properly, this is a huge opportunity for those focused on their future determined to be leaders.  BPM, content management, advanced real time analytics, mobile computing power and social networking are the building blocks of a new generation of IT.  BPM can help buffer the organization from rapid changes while facilitating agility and flexibility.   Properly implemented, BPM can provide dynamic process support while underlying legacy applications are rationalized, harvested and replaced to create a more lean environment.  Enabling the business community to implement changes on their own creates a more flexible business environment capable of reacting more rapidly to changing business requirements.

This all sounds good but the reality is the projects are difficult, time consuming and expensive.  On the flip side, we have only five years to get this done.  In 10 years it will be upon us.  But 25 years have gone by and nothing has changed.  Can it be done? 

Another perspective is that it must be done.  What is it going to take to get there?  Cloud?  SaaS?  A new relationship between IT and business?  A huge financial investment requiring a much longer view of payback with returns measured in different terms?  How is your organization preparing itself for the future?


BPM also needs BRM, Business Rules Management. I am not sure if industry language yet implies/assumes that BPM includes BRM or not...but it should.

I agree, there is probably not widespread recognition of BRM and distinction between the two. BPM is more likely the umbrella that covers BRM.

Doug Mow blogs from a business executive's perspective about IT trends, tech news and life in the trenches of an Enterprise 2.0 transformation.

Doug Mow

#CMO of Courion Corporation responsible for all branding, communications, messaging, online and offline marketing. Courion is the leading provider of access management tools that provide maximum access to corporate IT assets with minimal risk.

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