2012 is barreling to a close, and 2013 is almost upon us. Planning season is well underway here at EMC, perhaps the same is true for you?
Every year about this time, I bravely share my best guesses around the big themes we'll be seeing in the coming year.
Many years ago, I joined the informal crowd of industry prognosticators who offered up their views of the year ahead. As I look back at the past years, I think I've done reasonably well in framing the hot topics that are coming at us fast.
My secret? I pick trends that are already well underway, but aren't entirely mainstream yet.
Just to be clear, none of these here are really "new" ideas. But, if I'm right, you'll hear a lot more about these topics during the coming year.
See if you agree ...
Macro Thinking About 2013
From a global perspective, the 2013 context is very uncertain: economic uncertainty, political uncertainty (at least here in the US!), IT industry uncertainty, and so on. My guess is that you won't be seeing too many bold predictions about the coming year as a result -- everyone's crystal ball is fuzzy.
One thing is certain -- any macro uncertainty tends to accelerate industry transitions, especially in IT. IT budgets inevitably get constrained and scrutinized around two criteria: immediate economic payback, or a critical strategic capability that the business desperately needs.
Speaking from my purely EMC-centric point of view, I think we're decently positioned on both fronts. Many of our core product technologies (flash, virtualization, backup, etc.) fit clearly into the first criteria. And we've also have a nice portfolio of capabilities that support key strategic imperatives that business leaders are finding indispensable (e.g. big data analytics, security, cloud, app factories, etc.)
So, without further delay, here are my ten IT predictions for 2013.
#1 -- IT Continues To Move From Cost Savings To Value Generation
I started to notice a conversational shift in customer conversations a few years ago, and now it's clearly past the tipping point. Three years ago, 4 out of 5 customer conversations were around "how do we become more efficient and save money?". Now it seems like 4 out of 5 conversations are mostly about "how do we generate more value for the business?".
By the way, the two outcomes shouldn't be mutually exclusive. I would guess that many business leaders now share this viewpoint, and it's now increasingly being expressed in the supporting IT agendas.
But here's the rub -- the vast majority of IT organizations weren't constructed as value-generating entities. Most have to invest in a non-trivial organizational transformation to achieve this state.
So the topic of IT transformation becomes extremely relevant -- true in 2011, more true in 2012, and now very mainstream indeed during 2013.
#2 -- Digital Business Models Become More Important Than The Ingredients
There's an interesting acronym floating around -- SMAC (social, mobile, analytics, cloud) -- almost like a list of cool ingredients that everyone is interested in. And, to be clear, there is no shortage of rich industry discussion (articles, shows, webinars, blogs, etc.) on each and every one of these topics.
But their relevancy in isolation pales beside their power when combined together. The resulting construct I've dubbed a "digital business model" -- a complete re-envisioning of an organization's value proposition using entirely digital constructs.
There are plenty of places you can go to get a meaty, relevant discussion on social, or mobile, or analytics, or cloud, or next-gen apps and so on. But to this day, I have yet to find an equivalent forum where all of these individual topics come together around a set of leadership initiatives to transform the business.
Maybe we'll see that start to happen in 2013.
#3 -- Executive Literacy Become Important
A growing rant I'm hearing should be familiar to anyone reading this blog: many business leaders don't have the required background to understand how to use technology effectively in their businesses.
They know about finance. They know about human resources. They know about marketing, and legal, and logistics, and legislation, and so on. But how digitally literate are they?
In a world that's becoming dominated by digital business models, wouldn't it make sense to demand at least a conceptual grasp of technologies by business leaders throughout the organization?
I can't tell you how many IT leaders tell me they despair in working with their non-IT leadership peers -- most execs just don't "get it", and that's going to end up really hurting the business over time.
And the IT rallying cry for increased executive digital literacy will do nothing but gather strength during 2013.
#4 -- Enterprise Users Go 100% Mobile -- With Or Without IT
If you've become comfortable with smart devices and pervasive mobility, you need no convincing on how powerfully it changes how you do things: both at work, and in your personal life. You can't imagine a world where you're not always connected to hundreds of powerful applications and platforms.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of IT organizations have very limited ability to control and broker the consumption of mobile services by their knowledge workers.
Most of us users are now quite comfortable with all of this, and we're strongly motivated to set up our own IT environments completely outside the view of enterprise IT.
Historically, this reminds me of the mid-1980s where desktop computers (and LANs and productivity suites) were starting to show up everywhere in the workplace. IT could only stand by and watch powerlessly as boatloads of "office equipment" was purchased and deployed.
It took more than a decade before enterprise IT got fully comfortable with the idea of pervasive desktop computing. And there was a lot of running real hard to catch up with what users had already decided they needed.
Well, we don't have a decade this time around, do we?
I think that 2013 will be the year when most enterprise IT organizations fully come to terms with the fact that the genie has now clearly escaped the bottle, and start the unenviable work of building enterprise mobility environments that bring users back into the fold by offering a superior set of services.
#5 -- A New Wave Of Analytics Addicts In The Business
The business leadership community is now getting carpet bombed by powerful messages around the amazing power of predictive analytics. Pick up any business publication, attend any business seminar, etc. -- and it will inevitably part of the discussion.
Justifiably so, I'd argue.
The business world is a brutally competitive one, and any advantage you can get from gather, analyzing and acting on the wealth of data that's now available -- well, it's just too compelling to be ignored or rationalized away.
New platform capabilities (e.g. analytics as a service) will be inevitably complemented by management education on how to put these new tools to work to continually improve the business.
Yes, the world will still need traditional BI professionals (and the newer breed of data science), but executive analytical proficiency will quickly become part of the modern repertoire expected of business leaders around the globe.
And, in 2013, we'll see more IT organizations rising to this new challenge.
#6 -- Big Data Analytics Starts To Change IT Thinking
Big data analytics is one of those tools that can be applied to just about any thorny business problem, and that includes the business of running IT itself.
Indeed, there's a bleeding edge of IT professionals starting to experiment in applying predictive analytics to such messy problems as forecasting capacity, reacting to demand spikes, tracking down potential service delivery problems *before* they happen, and so on.
The security world has clearly started to move in that direction -- being able to predict a potential problem is far more appealing than simply reacting to it quickly and after the fact.
The prediction? During 2013, we'll see the big data analytics discussion take root with IT professionals around the globe -- not as something that they have to deliver to the business, but as toolset that they can use to better run their own businesses.
It will inevitably start with the security community, but it won't be long before the other disciplines: infrastructure, applications, user experience, etc. start to appreciate the power of a good predictive model.
#7 -- App Factories Become The New Model
One of the more fun posts I wrote a while back was "Why Applications Are Like Fish And Data Is Like Wine". The idea was simple: applications are ideally fresh instantiations of business ideas, put into practice as quickly as possible, learned from and enhanced.
Unfortunately, the norm seems to be development processes heavily biased towards really big applications with big teams and big investments. There's no agile response for anything else.
That's going to have to change before long: it ought to be as easy for someone in the business to specify an application idea and see a rough prototype as it is, for example, to hire a contractor or two.
We've done this in our own business, and it's paying off handsomely. And I'm guessing that 2013 will bring a dramatically increased interest in this topic, especially in larger enterprise IT settings.
#8 -- Everything Goes "Software Defined" -- And "As-A-Service"
The "software-defined" descriptor is now everywhere. For me, it's less about a precise technology definition, and more about an idealized architectural philosophy going forward: IT resources made available as dynamically provisioned and composed virtual instances.
If "software-defined" describes how IT services will be supplied, then "as a service" will describe how they will be demanded: published for easy consumption when needed and not before.
Between the two of them, we've got a useful set of descriptive terms that go meaningfully farther than the last round of over-familiar "cloud" discussion.
What will we see in 2013? More and more IT vendors pivoting towards the new supply and demand concepts: IT capabilities produced through dynamic instantiation of virtual instances, and variably consumed as a service.
And hopefully we can spend less time debating the subtle nuances of "cloud".
#9 -- IT Process Engineers Will Rule The Roost
I've seen this in our own business, and I'm starting to see it in my customer meetings. The logic is simple, and -- while somewhat new to IT -- isn't all that new an idea.
Delivering a service (any service, really) is only as good as the processes and automation behind it, and -- in that sense -- no one is ever done examining and improving the processes behind any service. Continual process re-engineering -- at both the macro and micro level -- is the norm in so many disciplines today, and it's headed straight for IT.
In these more progressive settings, you'll see a clear category of senior process jockeys, who are empowered to look at things cross-functionally and drive meaningful change in the way things are done. And then they do it again, and again, and again.
This is resulting in more than a few controversial discussions with folks like the enterprise architects. They point to their elegant picture of an end-state architecture, and I embarrassingly ask what processes lead to the continual and meaningful improvement of that picture?
This is not a new lesson. It's been learned in manufacturing, telecommunications, transportation and other infrastructure-heavy industries. And, during 2013, you'll see it pop up more frequently as part of the IT strategy discussion.
#10 -- The New School Of Security Will Be In Session
When it comes to information security, you don't have to be an expert to realize two things are happening.
First, the stakes are much higher than ever before: more to lose, and more entities who are well-organized to take things from you. Second, the traditional approaches aren't keeping up well with the challenge, and no one's really arguing for old-school approaches to a modern problem.
Into that void will be a relatively new set of philosophies, processes, models and skills to define the new school cyber-security. New tools will definitely be required (as in the more widespread use of big data and predictive analytics above), but will be just one visible icon in a much broader picture of substantial change and evolution.
In 2012, it was mostly the vendor community (especially RSA) arguing for a fundamental change in approach. In 2013, I'm predicting we'll hear even louder voices from the users of these technologies, and in particular our national governments.
#11 -- And, Of Course, Much More Data Than Last Year!
Err, this is my eleventh item on this list of ten.
It's the same uber-safe prediction I make every year -- more data to capture and store, more data to protect, more data to derive value from -- and of course, nowhere near enough resources to the job that needs to be done.
But the mindset appears to have markedly shifted over the years, and will likely continue to shift.
Looking back, there was a distinct desire by some in the IT community for some mechanism to prevent users from creating all that messy information. I think everyone has given up on that thought by now :)
Also a few years back, there was a certain frustration pointed at the storage vendors who make all the products everyone uses: way too expensive! The truth is that storage is an extremely competitive business, and no one can overcharge for what is becoming a more commoditized product.
Besides, we didn't create all that information in your shop, did we?
Also going back a while, an interest in cloud-like consumption models. By now, I think everyone understands that -- while the consumption model may be more attractive -- it still costs serious money to store a lot of data, and make sure it's there when you want it.
We now seem to be at a collective point where the blame game has largely subsided, and we're getting into serious discussions around what to do about the situation: infinite demand meets finite resources, and choices will have to be made.
Part of that customer discussion reflects itself in EMC's extended product portfolio: purpose built platforms for the challenging tasks at hand. Indeed, the fundamental storage landscape is shifting in important ways, and we're doing our part to lead the way.
One bright side to the current discussion: some of the organizations that are warming up to big data analytics are starting to view all those petabytes as a potentially valuable resource, and less so of an enormous cost sink to be minimized.
Here's looking forward to an interesting and challenging 2013 ...