This quote struck a chord with me as I prepared to deliver a keynote at the CIO 100 Symposium. The annual event, produced by CIO Magazine, brings together hundreds of CIOs and senior IT executives from the world’s top companies. It gave me a rare opportunity to look back in time – to my first CIO 100 talk 12 years ago.
Back in 2002, I was roughly one year into my new role as CEO of BMC. I shared my views about the IT landscape and how it would evolve over the next decade. I focused on a few hot topics: Sarbanes-Oxley as a significant change agent that would influence IT; the Internet’s profound impact on business operations and customer engagement; the growth of outsourcing; and the emergence of server virtualization.
While I happily had some insight into the emerging trends, looking back, I could not fully comprehend the impact they would have in the coming years. The Internet movement has expanded into mobile, social and cloud, with virtual machines evolving into Amazon Web Services and an explosion of cloud services like Salesforce, Google, and Azure. All of which has up-ended the enterprise server market, fueling strategy shifts from IBM, HP and Dell and the growth of commoditized white boxes delivered by Quanta, Wistron and others (now 17% of server sales to cloud providers in Q1 2014).
It wasn’t obvious, in 2002, that Yahoo Messenger and the ability to chat with friends online would give rise to Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and a host of new social networks and applications. IT was slow to accept these services, but consumers quickly embraced them and brought them to work, helping fuel relationships and empower productivity. Even more pervasive and disruptive was the mobile deluge, which spawned waves of innovative devices and dramatically changed the computing experience – sparking a BYOD revolution that gives users more control than ever before. At the same time, it puts enormous amounts of stress on IT (a mobile strategy doesn’t mean you get a hall-pass on compliance). Now it’s common for an employee to have three or more devices connected to the corporate network, only one of which is owned by the company.
All of these factors have made IT more complex, more challenging and frankly more exciting, and the future promises a faster pace of change (agile is too slow). So what’s next? As I look ahead to 2026, it’s hard to know for sure how technologies and behaviors will evolve, but some of the driving forces are clear:*
- Mobile Internet will continue to drive the computing experience, with smartphone adoption growing 3X to 3 billion devices by 2025 and 80% of Internet connections made through mobile devices.
- Cloud services will continue to gain traction as the preferred delivery model for both businesses and consumers. Consider that Amazon Web Services in 2014 adds enough server capacity every day to power a $5B enterprise.
- Automation of knowledge work will accelerate across industries, including education, healthcare, manufacturing and legal services – taking on tasks involving unstructured commands and subtle judgments, impacting 230 million knowledge workers.
- Advanced robotics will continue to emerge across industries, while autonomous vehicles will transform the “automobile economy” – impacting manufacturers, dealers, insurers, parking, service, etc.
- The Internet of things and corresponding “digitization of everything” through sensors, processors and software will fuel more than 50 billion connected devices, making today’s “big data” look small – and creating a wave of new business and personal technology use cases.
- Advanced materials (graphene, nanotubes, nanoparticles, self-healing materials, etc.) and compact energy storage will spawn new and improved products across computing and consumer electronics, chemistry, medicine and manufacturing.
Of course, there will be many more innovations that we can’t even imagine today – from companies known and unknown – impacting our business and personal lives.
If you’re a CIO today managing all that change, how do you prepare for the unknown? Well, here’s where the next part of Jobs’ quote comes into play: “You have to ‘trust’ that somehow all the dots will connect in your future.” Of course, “trust” is not a strategy that the CIO can sell to the board. The good news is that trust is a little like luck – it comes to those who are prepared.
So, what do you know? You know that whatever is coming, you are going to be responsible for it. Your foundation must address multi-sourced services, from integration, to command and control, provisioning, accounting and everything in between, that enables non-stop performance and movement of workloads in real time.
Finally, understand that with the right management layer for your digital enterprise, you will be well prepared to handle whatever is coming your way.
*Unless otherwise noted, data is from: McKinsey Report, May 2013, “Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy.”