A brief history lesson.
In the beginning of the technology phase of the evolution of the enterprise, business needs drove innovation. The rise of employee productivity devices such as the personal computer and fax machines were designed to make businesses more efficient by connecting employees with customers and each other. The consumer market eventually caught wind of the possibilities for these types of devices, and began an adoption process that suddenly and unexpectedly accelerated as the market for both consumer and enterprise technology began hitting a series of inflection points, beginning with:
The rise of the internet—The internet has been around for quite a while, in the early days (the 80s) it was called Darpanet, and was the domain of academics and the military. Fast forward to the 90s, and the first serious inflection point hit, with the introduction of Mosaic. Suddenly non-techies could navigate what came to be known as the world wide web and the consumer space leapfrogged the enterprise space so fast it felt like a roadrunner/coyote dynamic. Enterprises were caught completely flat-footed, and when they finally started to get within sight of the roadrunner, the next phase hit.
The rise of mobility—people had been using mobile devices for quite a while, starting with something the size, shape and weight of a brick (and airtime charges of only $8 a minute!), which was quickly followed by smaller versions, but for a long stretch of time mobile devices were essentially a phone with limited email and texting capabilities. Then Apple came along with another in an endless series of shiny objects in the form of the iPhone, and mobile access to the web became the new standard. The enterprise space thought they’d caught up, not realizing the roadrunner had just strapped on Acme rocket-powered sneakers. Everyone (predictably) wanted to take their cool new toy into the workplace, and IT (also predictably) resisted anything new entering their playground. For about 24 months end-users and IT administrators were at odds with each other over BYOD policies, IT slowly began to relax as better mobile device management applications came to market, then the next inflection point hit.
The rise of social media—this was not only a consumer trend, it was a youth consumer trend. Mark Zuckerberg figured out what enterprises knew but had failed to capitalize on; people will jump into a group dynamic if given a compelling means to interact with their peers. A billion, yep, billion users later, the enterprise space is still scratching their head and looking at how social can be harnessed as a productivity tool.
The eventual rise of wearable tech—this is my forecast, but I’d bet heavily I’m right. We are in the early adopter phase of wearable technology, the most obvious example being Google Glass. Google got out of the gate faster than Apple on this one (oddly enough), and is pushing a typical early adopter product (expensive, buggy, suspicion by end users, which means Google must be doing something right). This particular technology has not cracked the enterprise space yet, but it will, and here’s why. The main objection to Google Glass (and why its users are referred to as Glassholes) is driven primarily by privacy concerns; the privatistas have consumers believing that if I walk into a bar wearing Google Glass, I can look at you and instantly know everything about you. Not even remotely close to the truth. However, the main gating factor to consumer adoption seems to be privacy, so fine, lets look at that. Guess what? There is no privacy at work, so that objection disappears. With that out of the way, you suddenly have a convenient, web-based interface that overlays on everything you see, and within the enterprise environment (which is a lot more controllable than the rest of the world) the potential range of applications is nearly infinite; the medical applications alone could be a multi-billion dollar opportunity, not to mention manufacturing, utilities, etc.
What does this mean?
The short version is that consumer driven technologies are clearly setting the pace and direction for use of technology in the enterprise, and it’s been going on for decades. Today, the best devices and applications available are designed with consumers at the forefront. This makes sense — our society has evolved to enmesh technology with our daily lives and, as a result, the market is hugely profitable. But where does that leave businesses?
Business demands on IT have increased exponentially as the world of transactions and engagement has moved online. This results in more systems needing to instantly communicate with each other, more employees needing greater levels of anytime/anywhere connectivity, and more customers making reservations or placing orders online. There are more moving parts and associated data than ever before, and businesses have to solve for this with an ever-evolving IT infrastructure. This is one of the drivers that makes cloud-based IT infrastructure so compelling—always current, always accessible, and most importantly, lets companies focus on their core competencies rather than staffing heavily (and expensively) for IT support. Bottom line? There is no rest, there is no respite, and the pace we’re breathlessly running at is about to get a whole lot faster. CIOs and the organizations they lead need to completely rethink the evolution of technology, start leading, and stop playing catch-up. This is the direction we at BMC are taking our customers; no matter how hard and fast you move, there are going to continue to be inflection points, and based on what we’ve all seen over the past 20 + years, those changes are getting bigger and faster. What’s your long-term IT strategy for getting ahead of the curve?