Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The future of IT

The IT work landscape will change radically in the near future due advancements in cloud solutions, consumerisation of IT, standardisation of business processes and networking. As predicted years ago, we IT people are the cause of our own demise and we to need become more adpative and more business and information focused - something we said years ago we should do. After the current peak, IT outsourcing providers will face a period of decline in demand.

When you take into account:
  • Bring Your Own Device and consumerisation of technology
  • Continuation of standardisation of business processes and increased use of off-the-shelf-solutions
  • The trend to build applications web-based or as rugged downloadable apps
  • Cloud computing, Software as a Service including office applications such as provided by Google Apps or Office365
  • Outsourcing and offshoring and commoditisation of IT support and IT infrastructure
  • Improvements in network capabilities, ubiquity of Wi-Fi access and roll-out of 4G wireless networks
Devices and associated operating systems are becoming significantly robust. The IOS devices are a typical example of this. The device just works. If it there is a problem, it can be only one of two things: a user problem or a device problem. The resolution of the first will be to show the user what the problem is and this must be done in very simple terms for someone with two left hands (the extreme cases) and probably cannot easily be done by IT support staff over the phone. If it is something with the device – we know what Apple’s approach is. Throw it away and replace it with a new one. In a previous article I explained how you can virtualise your SOE so it can run on any OS. When the BYOD movement continues to take up, the primary responsibility for the hardware and the native OS will not be with the IT department anymore.
  
If applications are further brought to the web or are even provided as a cloud application such as with Office365, the requirements on the OS on the device are getting less and less. With increased mobility requirements and advancements in networking wired or wireless, people expect the same data to be available on any device they have and use. This can only be achieved when thin client solutions are provided where all data is stored centrally on a server.
  
The consequence is that there will be minimal support required for the desktop which has traditionally been one of the major headaches of IT departments and is now a primary revenue stream for offshore IT service providers.
  
Where at first advancements in technology caused the commoditisation of technology which led to offshoring of the desktop support, further advancements will take this almost completely away.
  
ERP vendors have progressed in the capability of their systems and standardisation of business processes have led to less custom development and more application integration. With the commoditisation of infrastructure and applications, we started a trend of offshoring application integration and application support - specifically now that applications are web based or run in a JVE. It also allows for Software as a Service. When selecting Oracle, SAP or Microsoft for your primary applications, you already lock yourself in with that vendor. In that case there is no problem to use their cloud offering. The choice for the original vendor as the cloud provider is therefore the most obvious one. You are interested in the application and the underlying infrastructure should not be of concern. The problem of moving away from SAP and start using Oracle is with respect to data migration, configuration work and the associated business change is the same. The thing you don’t want is the change of the re-installation, purchase and management of the associated infrastructure including the application foundation such as performance tuning and scalability issues. Leave that to the one who is specialised in it. Of course you still need someone to maintain the configuration of the application.
  
Taking applications to the cloud means again less IT effort required maintaining and running the applications and this specifically applies to those tasks that we have been able to outsource in the first place.
  
So what remains is the direct partnership with the business, understanding business strategy and business needs and participating in developing those strategies and finally implementing the required solutions. The implementation of those solutions can be a commoditised solution. It can also be a solution that uses commoditised components such as Software as a Service but where there is intense business consultancy required to design and configure the solution. And finally it can mean a solution that needs to be developed completely from scratch and this will be the case when standard components or applications are not available - when you want to do something unique.

The implementation approach must be adaptive to the situation and therefore agile. Agile does not per se mean that you don’t have a clear picture (requirements or even design) of the final outcome, but that parts are created in close cooperation with the business and pieces are delivered as much as possible in increments. Speed of delivery becomes even more a prominent requirement for success. Don’t forget that all the other IT can be delivered lightning fast: users buy their own devices, a virtual server is just 1 click away and another SharePoint farm will be available in days if not hours.

The final consequence is that one of the jokes made years ago when I was still attending Uni is becoming reality – we IT people are making ourselves obsolete. We’ve proliferated over the years and are now feel that offshoring is taking our jobs away. But trend will continue and will also impact the outsourcing providers offshore. Larry Ellison might finally fulfil his dream and become the sole all-encompassing provider for his business applications.

As in economic forecasting, the forecast is probably reasonable accurate but the timing is probably off. The only thing I can say about that, is that changes are coming increasingly in shorter cycles.

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