IT changes rapidly is a bit of an understatement. If we look at the evolution of the past 40 years, we can however see certain patterns arise which might help us in predicting the future.
One of the guys at #Teched showed an interesting slide on the cycle of IT in enterprises. For copyright reasons, I will not copy the slide in here, instead, I’ll give you my own interpretation. (Made in Paint)
What we see here, is that there are cycles in IT and especially, enterprise IT, that mark new era’s in how business organize themselves. In the 1970’s – 1980’s, IT was used in enterprises in a very localized manner. All data was stored on mainframes which were only accessible by authorized personell. If business wanted to have a question answered by IT, they had to submit a form, IT would then scavenge their data for days and give a printed answer back to business. Back then, we were happy to have consistent data.
In the 1980’s, 1990’s, local networks became more popular. this means that the data on those mainframes was no longer only accessible from on the machine itself, but that client server applications gave wider access to this data. Now, not only local personell with clearance could scavenge the data, but an IT-Withy guy in a different location was also able to answer business questions. This is the time we had access to consistent data so we could make the right decisions.
We all remember the early days of the internet. By the end of the millenium, every company needed to have a website, so that they could share information with their customers via the internet. It was also the time in which the internet also gained popularity in the enterprise itself. Think of portal pages, search engines, online document storage etc… during this period, we focused on process efficiency.
The last couple of years, we noticed a very strong growth of social media. Companies start marketing their brand via Twitter and Facebook. They recruit new employees via LinkedIn and they setup collaboration spaces in Google+. Although all these applications are on the internet, we do notice a very big difference with the internet cycle. Here the enterprises start using the internet from an enterprise user perspective. A two way collaboration instead of just pushing out information.
Next to this socal collaboration, we also notice that more and more of the IT is being moved to the cloud and that confidential data is now no longer only accessible through the company’s network, but also via mobile applications. This trend, of having access anytime, anywhere and being able to collaborate at will is what we call, the era of business flexibility where we focused on user efficiency.
Worth to notice is, that all these cycles had a very rapid growth and a slow decline. To date, some companies are actually still using mainframes, and I can’t imagine the internet to dissappear from the enterprises any time soon.
The big question now is off course: “What’s the next wave?”
According to the original author of the presentation (Richard Probst) and many other people (including myself), it’s the internet of things. What we see is that information became accessible to everybody and became instant. Back in the days, only a happy few could mine enterprise data for answers and it took weeks. Nowadays, everybody can mine the data in a matter of seconds. We can’t win anything in that area anymore, so instead, we have to win in the area of that other bottleneck: “The User”.
During input of information, it’s the user making errors. Replace the human input by sensors and the number of errors will be reduced dramatically. During execution of tasks, it’s the human making errors, replace him by automation and robots and again, the number of errors will reduce dramatically. During decisions, the human’s emotions interfere with his decision making. A computer does not have this problem and will make the best decision without hesitation.
That sounds like a very clinical world. What if we could give the cold machine situational and emotional awareness, to consider ethical questions? That’s actually already being investigated today!
MIT introduced for example the MooDMeter. Using sensors, they can estimate the mood of individuals and large groups. Adding this to the equasion can make the internet of things less clinical and more socially accepted.
Leveraging social media like twitter, and evaluating the “mood” of tweets actually can already help enterprises in detecting trends on the web and responding faster to disgruntled consumers. I’ve seen it used in a CRM demo already.
Today, we are already withnessing the birth of the next Enterprise IT era, which I rather call, emotional IT.
Looking further than that is beyond our imagination and is pure guessing, but scenarios such as the Matrix, Blade Runner or Star Wars still come to mind.