Sneak Peek: Enterprise Software 2013

The following forces and information technology (IT) trends will continue to shape 2013:

1. Cloud Computing
While cloud computing is becoming mainstream, hybrid cloud–on-premises configurations (a.k.a., “software plus services” and “connected services”) remains the reality for cloud integration and federated cross-cloud security issues. Organizations are increasingly looking to hybrid cloud architectures as a way to have a more dynamic computing architecture over time. There are only a modest number of hybrid computing architectures in production today, but the movement towards hybrid is apparent. IT departments can move away from acting as a database or hardware shop to invest in actually designing products that are easy to use and require less training. IT departments can shift to the role of business enabler (enabling processes) and leave “turning wrenches” behind. Openness will be one of the most important enablers of hybrid IT because it helps users avoid lock-in to vendors and specific ecosystems. As has been the case with information as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) is going to be increasingly seen not just as a public cloud capability, but as a private and hybrid one as well, at least as far as enterprise application development is concerned.

With Workday going public with great fanfare and with Autodesk unveiling cloud-based product lifecycle management (PLM) and simulation, cloud-based solutions were validated in 2012. This will cause the big players to get real about the cloud. It will take some time, but the arms race will accelerate in 2013. Middleware and integration technologies will expand into the small to medium business (SMB) space as cloud computing and lightweight development models enhance affordability and access. These businesses will be able to deploy small pieces of middleware as needed (federated), without having to deploy a full solution. As hybrid cloud apps become a reality, will the old idea of all-encompassing enterprise resource planning (ERP) system start to erode? As cloud solutions are assembled and more core ERP relies on cloud solutions, control of the industry by the Big ERP vendors may be negated.

2. Big Data
Data has exploded in terms of volume, variety, and velocity (and thus is sometimes even referred to as “fast data”), necessitating the advent of related high-performance data discovery, data crunching, and data analysis tools for mitigation of this data deluge. In-memory databases and appliances such as SAP HANA, Oracle Exadata, or Microsoft SQL Server 2012 are seen as the help here. I think in-memory databases will be increasingly used for quick response time of analysis, such as in guided selling and on-the-fly recommendations, large-scale simulations, or network-type optimizations. I think that Oracle, IBM DB2, etc. will add in-memory–type capabilities to their traditional relational databases, and the hybrid structure database will be born. The reality is that there will be lots of hybrid type of environments where multiple applications are not designed for an in-memory database designDatabase vendors will have to respond to the existence of HANA with a hybrid database solution (i.e., side-by-side relational and in-memory parts, with data moving between them), which in turn will affect what apps vendors offer. This will start a multiyear migration, not unlike from mainframes, minis, client servers, etc. in the past.

The biggest goal of big data is to find hidden patterns and answers in existing data via an easy user experience. In some ways, big data is not necessarily a new phenomenon, since there has been a vast amount of data within enterprises for many years. What has changed, though, is that we now have the appropriate tools to deal with it, both in place (static data) and in motion (fast-changing data), and to find the patterns hiding within it through cleansing and transformation. What is missing from business intelligence (BI) apps today is the ability for business analysts to create their own models in an expressive self-service way. BI vendors must provide businesspeople with the tools to quickly and fully develop their models for decision-making. Middleware and other technology that has been on the big data sidelines will begin to develop interfaces with traditional big data solutions that allow applications not only to conduct analysis, but to take action as a result of the data intelligence.

3. Mobile Computing
Mobile computing allows access to data from virtually anywhere and on virtually any device. Mobile devices are no longer discretionary spending items for families, even (or perhaps especially) in underdeveloped countries where other resources are still scarce. I spent several weeks this past summer in rural Serbia in my parents’ birth village, where there is still no running water or sewer system, yet almost every peasant has a mobile phone in his or her pocket (and quite a few dilapidated houses are adorned with satellite dishes on their leaking roofs as well). It is indeed astonishing that the Internet (cloud) and mobility have penetrated many underdeveloped regions much faster than basic amenities such as running water. Ordinary people today have more computing power in their pockets than NASA had in 1969 when they sent men to the moon.

Now, we should distinguish between true mobile apps—i.e., native apps written directly on Apple’s iOS, Windows 8, or Android—versus mobile apps that invoke a browser-based screen from enterprise-type solutions. True mobile apps have security issues (including lost data problems and theft) and are more costly to deploy, but should be easier to use (richer experience) and have more high-end features (e.g., location-based solutions). The idea of geolocation is to push pertinent information to people who are nearby, based on their profile; so instead of users checking into a location (e.g., warehouse, machine center, airport gate, retail store, etc.), the location checks into users via contextual insights and offers. Enterprise software vendors have embarked on the following three-step path to workforce mobilization:

  1. Reach—when people are out of office, reach them via notifications, reminders, etc.

  2. Act—enable transactional users to use the full ERP suite remotely via apps for smartphones and tablets, in the same manner as when they are in the office. The look and feel should be the same as on the desktop (or close to it), with the addition of “touch” capabilities for tablets and smartphones

  3. Transform—with the input of professional ERP users and roles (e.g., road warriors), transform some industries’ best practices via mobile devices (e.g., field service tasks)

Buying patterns, and the way people view mobile technology, will change—devices will be selected based on content and services first, and on technology second. Increasingly, these applications and services will be tied to enterprise middleware technologies such as complex event processing (CEP), BI, and business process management (BPM) to create more cohesive and accessible executive and business dashboarding tools.

4. Social Collaboration
Both individuals and businesses are engaging in social collaboration, whereby companies listen closely to their customers’ needs and opinions, and analyze these for deciding on the best possible course of action. To my mind, “social” currently holds some promise for customer service (customer sentiment analysis and social analytics for customer preferences) and in pursuing leads and opportunities. A key corporate change driven by these trends is customer experience management, i.e., becoming the brand that customers think of first when a particular product or service class is mentioned, and turning casual customers into fans that subsequently promote the brand not only by word of mouth, but also by the click of a mouse. So-called digital marketing is about connecting all of the aspects of a person. Consumers are already leveraging social IT trends to conduct their own due diligence and research on brands and retailers. Digital marketing, if properly done, can turn a business into an efficient social network, while turning customer management into fan management.

Within 2 to 5 years, social products such ase Chatter, Yammer, Tibbr, etc. will become just another standard part of enterprise apps. Social will generalize to be about following not only people, but also physical items and devices, business processes, files, and applications. In the consumer world, we follow friends; in the enterprise world we report to people, manage other people, and listen to changes in the work environment to act on them accordingly. Typical social features that can boost ERP and enterprise apps are as follows:

  • Social Profile—presenting a more complete view of an employee to his/her colleagues (think: LinkedIn profile). People, department, files, apps, and subjects all contribute to the enterprise social graph of connections, affinities, and actions

  • Peer Influence Index—the impact that an employee has on the persons and things with which he or she interacts (think: Klout)

  • Social Insights—social analytics, showing a summary of what’s happening in someone’s social network, including both activities and requests waiting for action, with work-related filters (e.g., per order, per unit, per group, etc.)

Employee and user engagement will be pursued by enterprises in earnest in 2013 via social and gamification tools.

5. Consumerization of IT
All of the above forces together converge in the consumerization of IT, a trend that is reshaping enterprise IT strategies. Users find that mobile devices enhance their productivity, making them more effective in their roles. But, as many organizations move towards BYOD (bring your own device) and CYOD (choose your own device) policies, CIOs are grappling with governance and security. A wider range of devices need support and therefore a device-agnostic approach is required. As access to information increases, so will stress levels on the server infrastructure and the number of applications that corporate information has to support. The question for the CIO is how to enhance the adoption of these devices in a way that enables the organization to capitalize on this trend. To that end, interest in mobile device management (MDM) platforms such as SAP Sybase Afaria or AirWatch will grow.

6. Service Models
Solution providers must build business models that are designed to deliver services and solutions to their customers, not just peddle products. Customers truly want trusted advisers in addition to software products: someone who can guide them through the technology industry changes and help provide them with competitive differentiation in their regional market andindustry. I think that the customer relationship management (CRM) and business performance management (BPM) realms will continue to converge, and ERP systems will increasingly come with embedded BPM and BI. Supply chain management (SCM), CRM, BPM, and PLM vendors will continue to consolidate and expand their functional footprint to surround ERP and peel off its users, until ERP is merely a financial, accounting, and human resources (HR) transactional system of record. To remain the market force, ERP vendors will have to establish a particular industry savvy and expand into some adjacent best-of-breed areas (e.g., as IFS moved into field service management (FSM), or as QAD has its autonomous transportation/shipping division in Precision Software).
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