The business technology sector went through a lot of changes in 2011. What follows is my list of the most important themes, events, products, and people of the past year.
10. BI from the outside in. Whereas once the main thrust of business intelligence software was to analyze a company's internal operations, the most interesting BI thrust right now is taking place outside the corporation. Companies are using BI to analyze the social network conversations customers and potential customers are having about their products and brands, influencing their product development, pricing strategies, marketing campaigns, and sales approaches.
9. IT as a service. The service concept has been around for awhile. But when internal IT was the only service in town, a company's options were limited. Now the options include internally offered services, hosted services, and services offered as a cloud-based application. Competition from outside providers will put more pressure on IT organizations to justify charge-backs.
8. Social networks go enterprise. The endless updating of likes, dislikes, locations, and petty discussions has no place in the enterprise. How wrong can an assumption be? The large established social networks, including Twitter, Facebook, and Google +, are developing a corporate stance, while social business software such as Yammer, Socialtext, and Salesforce.com's Chatter are gaining corporate traction. The goals: Help employees collaborate better internally and with partners; and help companies connect with and understand their customers better.
7. Steve Jobs' death. The person who had the greatest influence on business technology in 2011 (and arguably in business tech for the past 10 years) was also the executive with the most disdain for the business sphere. Jobs created a model of perfectionism, consumer-orientation, and truly personal computing that will be near impossible for another executive to replicate. The prosumer movement (see trend No. 5) is largely Jobs' doing.
6. P/C/S. As noted in some of the other trends, privacy, security, and compliance are the three obstacles any application or service must surmount to make it onto the corporate network. These issues became even more acute in 2011 as state and federal regulations made privacy leaks not just embarrassing but financially costly. Expect these regulations to be tightened in 2012.
5. Prosumer. What a great idea: Your employees bear the cost of buying computing hardware, and you simply hook them into the corporate network. But not so fast--user-purchased devices present some profound security and compliance challenges, which companies are just starting get their arms around.
4. The economy. Even as the economy starts to grow modestly, the C-suite, including CIOs, will remain cautious with spending. Every dollar will require an ROI justification, and CIOs will weigh their lease-versus-buy and temporary-versus-fulltime-staffing options. CIOs are under intense pressure to develop IT spending plans aimed at outgrowing the competition rather than cutting costs to match a slowing economy.
3. Mobility. Your employees have left their cubicles. Mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones are all the rage. The app store model is making its way into the enterprise, and mobile devices connected to location and payment systems will reorganize how companies manage their workforces, deploy their services, and get paid for their products. How will you manage and secure those mobile devices and applications?
2. Cloud computing. Depending on your perspective, the cloud is the most important or hyped or abused term in the technology lexicon. It's probably all three. Cloud computing does represent the biggest expansion of IT functions beyond the corporate confines since the first glassed-in data center was created. Clouds, parsed into public, private, and hybrid varieties, are here to stay.
1. IT is too slow. When this cover story came out in InformationWeek magazine earlier this year, I was working at a competing media business and was envious that InformationWeek had put the issue so succinctly. Complaints about IT operations being too slow and unwieldy have always existed, but the rise of cloud computing, software as a service, and all-encompassing social networks makes the option of doing an end run around IT all the more plausible. The transformation of IT into a service business (see No. 20) is just now unfolding. It should be a wake-up call to IT organizations everywhere.
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Multicloud Infrastructure & Application ManagementEnterprise cloud adoption has evolved to the point where hybrid public/private cloud designs and use of multiple providers is common. Who among us has mastered provisioning resources in different clouds; allocating the right resources to each application; assigning applications to the "best" cloud provider based on performance or reliability requirements.