Recently I attended the Gartner IT Symposium, which is as close to an annual gathering of the CIO tribes as you'll find. Although it's primarily a consulting organization, Gartner does a good job aiming its conference activities at a high-level discussion of enterprise trends and developments.
Part of the Gartner forum is its annual top enterprise technologies listing, which I handicapped in a previous column. While Gartner's list is solid, I think their analysts missed five big developments. Some of these developments were recently highlighted at MIT's EmTech emerging tech conference, which I attended immediately following Gartner's.
These five developments should be on your corporate radar:
1. Digital Manufacturing Systems.
Still a big part of the U.S. economy, manufacturing is worth about $2 trillion, according to Rodney Brooks, founder of Rethink Robotics. Brooks has spearheaded development of an industrial robot that is safe, easy for humans to work with, and as simple to program as downloading an app from the Apple app store. (I tried it, and it really is that simple.)
With a $22,000 robot that can be up and running in a manufacturing site within minutes, the company is clearly onto something. But Rethink is only one leg of a three-legged rethink of U.S. manufacturing. Another is the development of 3-D printers to quickly prototype a manufactured product. Finally, development of the small run and a short-run manufacturing marketplace for innovators (MIT's Fab Labs is one example) who want to get their ideas into production quickly are coming together to create a manufacturing system that will make it economically sensible for companies to manufacture near their customers.
Any C level exec in the manufacturing industry who is not looking at these systems is in for a shock. Shipping manufacturing work overseas for cheap labor and handwork is about to lose its economic advantage.
[ CIOs need to focus on growth, amplification, and technology, says Gartner analyst. Read more at Gartner: CIOs Begin 3-Year Shift In Responsibilities. ]
2. High-speed Wireless.
The mobile workforce seems like a good idea -- until you encounter data caps, throttling, and slow connection speeds. What if, within ten years, your wireless cellular network was 1,000 times faster than the one you use today -- sound farfetched?
Not really. Advances in use of the digital spectrum, swarms of repeaters tied into nearby backhaul lines, and most importantly, base stations the size of a deck of cards operating inside buildings are all within our technical grasp. Qualcomm CTO Matt Grob explains it all in this video. If you think the mobile Internet will always be a poor cousin of the fixed net, you're in for a surprise.
3. Responsive Design.
The rise of the mobile Web means fewer and fewer people are accessing your corporate website from a desktop. That mobility also means you need to design for a wide range of smartphones and tablets, each requiring its own app and web content management system.
A better solution is one design that adjusts to the device on which it is being viewed: Responsive Web Design. RWD should become the new three-letter acronym that is part of every corporate Web development organization.
4. Education Tech.
Big data, cloud computing, and corporate mobility all require technical skill sets that most companies don't possess. The numbers of positions required are predicted to be massive. Gartner analysts estimated that development and analysis of large data sets will set the stage for 4.4 million IT jobs worldwide needed to support big data by 2015.
That sounds like good news, especially as people outside IT will be required to support the new rich data environment. In the U.S., the big data movement will create 1.9 million IT jobs by 2015, according to Gartner head of research Peter Sondergaard.
The downside -- and it's a big one -- is that only one-third of these jobs will be filled, due to lack of skills.
Let's assume for a moment that Gartner's projections are close to correct. Corporations tend to do a great job of talking up the need for employee training, but a lousy job of providing training. Into this scenario comes a whole new set of companies, such as Udemy, that are aimed at disrupting the current education model. While such companies tend to focus on fixing public education, their platforms and techniques are equally applicable to business. CIOs need to direct their corporate training programs toward providing employees with the skillsets needed to fuel company growth.
5. Small Data.
Many big data expectations are based on a one-sided deal. Customers allow companies to surreptitiously collect information on their Web activities in return for free service and applications on Google, Bing, FaceBook and others. The myth of user anonymity is perpetuated by pages full of privacy rules that no sane person can read or understand.
In return for this, users get targeted ads and an increasing awareness that the "privacy-for free-access" is a Faustian bargain, as their identities get auctioned in the digital world.
What if there was a method for users to recover their identity and parcel out their information for something more than free email? This is the thinking behind Personal.com. In his presentation at EmTech, president Shane Green made a compelling argument that users rightfully expect to become part of the media/advertising mix, not a target of it.
The rise of the user and the recovery of identity and privacy rights will become a big deal for companies as they increasingly turn into digital commerce platforms. Customer control over identity and personal information is going to reorganize the concept of lead management, customer nurturing, and other activities that require a persistent knowledge of a user's activities.
The business world is changing. Is your company ready? E2 Innovate, formerly Enterprise 2.0, is the only event of its kind, bringing strategic business professionals together with industry influencers and next-gen enterprise technologies. Register for E2 Innovate Conference & Expo today and save $200 on current pricing or get a free expo pass. Nov. 12-15, 2012, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, Silicon Valley.