Three Things in 2016 that will Change Enterprise Computing

Well…2015 is over and it feels like a year that has gone by faster than any I can remember. Of course my running theory on that is that the older you get, the less one year is as a percentage of your entire life, so maybe there’s truth to the observation that time goes by faster as you get older.

It has become tradition for me to make some proclamations about what will happen in the world of technology. I’ve given up on trying to add up all the numbers in the year and use that as the number of things to talk about (i.e. last year’s “2+0+1+5 = 8 Things to watch in Enterprise Tech for 2015”) and instead will focus on three things that I think will change the world. The topic may be a bit headier, but worth thinking about.

In last year’s blog, I declared that we’ve officially entered the sensor century or “Sensury”, and predicted that security in this sensor driven world would be a big topic (look at what happened with the Jeep security fiasco) and we’ll start doing things like leaving our wallets at home. On that last bit, I don’t think the Department of Motor Vehicles offers an option for your driver’s license yet so I still need my physical wallet, but I’ve managed to use Apple Pay quite a bit! This past year we saw the continued and expected growth in cloud across the industry as well as much ado about big data, IoT… Along with the maturing of technologies to help businesses capitalize on these trends. It was a year of evolution – not revolution.

I want to emphasize that the statement in my 2015 blog around security continues to stand – I absolutely believe this should still be top of mind for everyone in the world of IT. The evolution here will be towards a secure framework that spans device security. Front and back office applications, extending all the way down to data storage/cloud will emerge to make “Digital” real in the enterprise.

Before I tell you what I believe are the three big things in 2016, I can already think of three friends of mine who will tweet “But Steve, what about Chocolate flavored edible wallpaper??” I am sorry in advance to disappoint! And on the subject of disappointment, I thought I would also note a few yawners for 2016 – virtual reality, new phones and more smart watches.

Also, since it’s the beginning of a new year and I get a new year’s wish (I made that up) here’s a few things I hope to see in 2016: More disruptive startups achieving scale, more women in tech boardrooms, more advancements in medical tech, and significant consolidation in the analytics software market segment.

Now on to the topic of the blog, three things in 2016 that will change enterprise computing. Admittedly I debated using the phrase “digital enterprise” in my title—to be buzzword compliant—as I do believe organizations are focused on switching from “analog” processes and systems to efficient and simplified digital models. But rather than doing that, I thought I would look at the underlying trends, which I see in the industry. SO…on to those three things.

First and foremost, we will see every major player in tech move towards developing more consolidated, simpler systems vs. “engineered” systems. This is an incredibly important move away from vendor lock-in and a shift towards embracing open systems. One could refer to this as the rise of a more integrated enterprise DNA “fabric”. I’m not sure what to call this yet so Enterprise DNA is the best I’ve got for now – which implies a pervasive but consistent compute layer across devices, in the cloud, built into the OS or the compute tier of the enterprise stack model (but not necessarily the OS itself). Bob O’Donnel at ThinkAnalysis Research referred to a similar concept as a “MetaOS” – simply meaning “a platform-like layer of software and services that remains independent of any underlying device platform to deliver the critical capabilities that people are ultimately looking to access.” In my world at SAP – that means applications that existed outside an operating system or database environment are consolidated into a single product, single copy of data, and single security model – resulting in less time spent integrating various components with more time spent on innovation of the business fence. Lots of companies (Microsoft) are doing this conceptually, along with consumer-facing organizations like Facebook… so is SAP with HANA at the DB and application development layer.

Second, we will hopefully witness the death of the “OK” button for key decisions in business processes. We’ll see math and specialized algorithms with contextual awareness take over fundamental decisions in supply chains, manufacturing processes, and retail promotions – all in real time. Not only do I believe more organizations will give decision-making control to algorithms, I believe we will see the beginning of an algorithm “arms race” between companies in specific industries. Don’t believe me? More trades are made on the stock market by algorithms than people, and that feels pretty important! Knowledge workers in every industry are too involved in mundane decisions that can be modeled and optimized in nanoseconds. This “arms race” of sorts has already started with organizations leveraging data scientists to develop libraries of industry specific optimization models, but those have yet to be deployed in a real time operational model, except for specific use cases like low latency algorithmic trading or utility grid optimization. More and more, we will see automation to the point where the price of a gallon of milk on a digital tag will slowly reduce as the expiry date approaches and no human will make that determination.

Finally, IoT will get the end-to-end control systems it needs to make the “things” work in a harmonized manner. We’ll call this “Programmable IoT”. Think about this for a minute. I have window shades that I can open automatically with my iPhone as well as a Nest thermostat. But when it’s hot outside, there’s nothing in the middle that decides it would be better to lower my shades vs turn on my air conditioning. I know someone will tell me this exists, but with home automation standards like Z-Wave, KNX, and myriad legacy infrastructure environments in operation, the existing apps that I’ve tried are missing this important middleware component to integrate and harmonize the environments. Moreover, they don’t work well with devices from different manufacturers, nor are they intelligent and autonomous. In the enterprise, end-to-end control systems at an organization-wide level are coming and they will transform everything. Entire Warehouses will have digital twins that are fully programmable. Imagine using IoT technology to make an API for your warehouse or manufacturing facility! This will change how companies think, act, and operate as well as enable new levels of scale and productivity we have yet to see. This, above all else, will allow organizations to take everything that is seemingly disconnected and inconsequential and make it connected and consequential.

In short – 2016 is going to be much more of a year of revolution than evolution in the world of enterprise computing, as the trends I mentioned – along with the unforeseen disruptions that will occur throughout the business world and the world in general – rapidly develop.

Happy New Year!

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