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In Andrew Bartels’ view, today’s technology world looks like a calm lagoon with just a few storm clouds on the horizon.

But beneath that deceptively smooth surface are what Bartels, a Forrester Research vice president, calls the “four sharks of disruption:” cloud computing, smart computing, mobility and IT consumerization.

“These are the four forces that are impacting the technology market and, of course, impacting your role,” Bartels told a crowd of CIOs, BPM professionals and other attendees at Forrester’s Embracing Digital Disruption Forum in Orlando, Fla.

Each force primarily affects a different aspect of business, Bartels said:
Mobility has the biggest impact on engaging with customers and constituents.

• Mobility and IT consumerization have the biggest impact on engaging with employees.

• Smart computing--which Forrester has defined as “a new generation of hardware, software, and networks that connects physical infrastructure with analytic computing systems”--has the biggest impact on running the business.

• Cloud computing has the biggest impact on running IT.

“Mobility changes how you attract clients” as well as transforming the customer experience, Bartels said. “Mobility is disrupting how firms engage with people.”

Let the numbers tell the story. By 2016, 1 billion individuals worldwide will have “pocket computing power,” such as smartphones and tablet computers, according to Forrester and other sources. Business spending on mobile devices, services and applications, will double in the next few years, reaching $1.3 trillion by 2015.

The resulting tidal wave of mobile computing will wash into back-end systems in a transformation that Bartels described as “equal in magnitude to the advent of Web-based information and transaction systems in the 1990s.”

Meanwhile, IT consumerization is already disrupting the workplace. The title of a Forrester report released in January 2012 aptly summed up the situation: “Consumerization Will Erase Boundaries Between Corporate and Consumer Technology Markets.”

“We don’t have a bring-your-own-SaaS-application-to-work--yet,” Bartels said, referring to Software as a Service. But a growing number of employees use their own tools--smartphones, tablet computers, even laptops--on the job. That’s allowed Apple Inc. to make big inroads into the corporate PC market, with “bring your own device” (BYOD) increasingly translating to “bring your own Apple device,” Bartels said.

And it’s not just the 20-somethings looking to use their Apple tools, he noted; many top executives now own iPhones or iPads or Apple laptops--or all three. “Then they walk into the IT department and say ‘Support this thing,’” he said. “That’s a major problem. But it’s also a major opportunity.”

Smart computing is already affecting business operations, Bartels said. “Smart computing extends existing technologies by adding new real-time situation awareness and automated analysis to help firms solve smarter and more complex business problems,” he said, describing smart computing as "a mosaic of technologies":
Awareness, including sensors, GPS data, social media monitoring and video monitoring.

Analysis, including real-time analytics, predictive analytics and “big data” technologies.

Assembly of appropriate alternatives and actions, including smart process apps such as BPM, business rules engines, workflow and dynamic case management.

Access via smartphones and tablets.

Audit capability.

“The last generation of technology focused mostly on transactional processes,” Bartels said. Between the early 1990s and 2008, process applications automated many processes From about 2009 on, smart computing has been making transactional activities more effective. But smart computing’s awareness and analysis tools are also helping companies obtain more value from their assets while minimizing their liabilities and risks--a trend Bartels expects to continue at least through 2016.

While awareness technologies provide companies with unprecedented knowledge about exactly what’s happening inside and outside their businesses, analysis technologies provide insight into all that information in multiple ways, such as:
• A current-state analysis, which pinpoints what’s happening.

• A diagnostic analysis, which seeks causes.

• An optimization analysis, which looks for the best alternatives.

• A predictive analysis, which consider what might happen next.

It’s no secret that cloud computing has been disrupting IT operations for several years, and not surprisingly, Forrester predicts the upheaval to continue.

But the marketplace will change dramatically over the next few years, Bartels said. Forrester predicts that the hybrid cloud will rapidly overtake public cloud over the next few years, rising from about a $10 billion market today to more than $25 billion by 2020. In contrast, Forrester expects that the public-cloud marketplace to peak slightly below $10 billion this year, then flatten and slowly decline over the same period.

Meanwhile, Forrester expects the Software as a Service (SaaS) market to continue growing at least through 2013, Bartels said. But the bulk of that growth is concentrated in three categories: enterprise process applications, security apps and desktop apps.

READER FEEDBACK: Have any of these four "sharks of disruption" changed the way you do business? If so, ebizQ editors would like to hear about your experience. Contact Site Editor Anne Stuart at editor@ebizq.net.

About the Author

Anne Stuart, ebizQ's editor from mid-2010 to mid-2013, is now senior editor for SearchCloudApplications.com at ebizQ's parent company, TechTarget. She is a veteran journalist who has written for national magazines, daily newspapers, an international news service and many Web sites. She’s specialized in covering business and technology issues for 20 years. Based in Newton, Mass., she can be reached at astuart@techtarget.com. Follow Anne on Google+ and at annestuart_TT on Twitter. For general questions about ebizQ, please e-mail editor@ebizQ.net.

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