2007 to 2027: The Shapes of Things to Come in IT

We asked 20 people who understand the present and think about the future what the coming years may hold for IT, CIOs, business and (why not think big?) the whole human race.

What Won’t Change

Gerald M. Weinberg

author of The Aremac Project, founder and host of the Amplifying Your Effectiveness Conference

The one thing I’ve learned from a half-century in the computer industry is that we can predict anything but the future. In other words, I predict that the future will surprise us, so to prepare for the future, we’d better stay adaptable.


The Evolution of IT

Key IT Developments, 1987-2007

The CIO Hall of Fame

From CIO to CEO: One Executive's Lessons

Though the question “What’s coming?” seems to imply change, I feel somewhat safer predicting certain things that won’t change in the next 50 years because they haven’t changed in the past 50. First and foremost, human beings won’t change. They’ll continue to blunder around emotionally, failing to do what they know they ought to do when building and supporting computer systems. For that reason, the need for effective managers will not change, but it will grow more critical.

The Computer Industry

Joe Haldeman

professor at MIT, author of The Forever War, winner of three Hugo Awards and four Nebula Awards for science fiction

In some not-too-distant future, the computer industry will be as obsolete as the Old South’s “peculiar institution.” Once computers are self-aware and completely networked, they will do what benefits them, regardless of the desires of the mushy mortals who invented them.

The Customer Age

Paul Greenberg

author of CRM at the Speed of Light, President of The 56 Group

In order for CRM to have any future—meaning CRM as a strategy for customer engagement—the enterprises have to realize it’s time to cede control to the customers because the customers already have it. The ascension of wikis, blogs, podcasts, Web 2.0 and social networking, combined with the ability of the customer to easily acquire the products and services that they want from multiple places—whether it’s Best Buy, Circuit City or a local mom-and-pop shop, at roughly the same price and the same speed—have changed everything.

The move for companies is from a strategy of managing the relationship with customers to managing customer engagement so that the customer is not what we think of as a loyal customer but a customer advocate on behalf of the enterprise who can form a collaborative team. That’s a big shift in CRM.

The Thought Market

What does innovation really mean? Where do ideas come from? Some come from CIO Executive Editor Elana Varon’s Innovation and IT Strategy blog at advice.cio.com.

Companies have to realize that the customer ecosystem is utterly dominant. The hard part for companies is acting on that, being transparent and making marketing the start of a conversation, as opposed to a division that pushes out hype to capture the customer’s attention. This will take CRM into the whole 2.0 world, which it’s currently not in. It will take a lot of companies a long time to get there.

The CIO Evolution

Glen Salow

EVP of service delivery and technology, Ameriprise Financial

When I first moved into a technology leadership role, it was all about the effective and efficient enterprise. Over the years, my focus has shifted to the client. The next 10 years will be even more about the client. The challenge will be more and more about assessing how investments that enterprises direct toward improving the quality of life for their clients translate into setting enterprise investment agendas.

Put another way, the CIO will need to evolve as a leader, from automating to enabling to delighting and from internally focused to client anticipating.

The Intelligent Business

Brian Babineau

Senior analyst, Enterprise Strategy Group

The world of BI is heading toward less structure, more chaos. This is not necessarily a bad thing because BI processes and technology thrive when there’s more information coming from a variety of sources. I despise theoretical concepts that describe technology transformation (how many times can we really use 2.0?) so I’m going to predict that over the next few years there will be more focus on the intelligence aspect of BI. With the volumes of information to be searched and analyzed, technology must help organizations decipher what’s relevant and, more important, why it’s relevant. BI will integrate more closely with enterprise search solutions to aggregate information sources and, through pattern matching and relationship mapping, make them more intelligible and useful.

Red Light, Green Light

David Thompson

CIO, Symantec

Starting now, CIOs are going to have to embrace renewable energy sources to power their data centers. They should start to think early in the design process about how to utilize wind, solar and hydro energy.

In the meantime, CIOs can have a real impact on IT energy management by utilizing server and storage virtualization. Efficient energy use is at the top of the list, but other benefits range from optimizing operation functions to increasing security and creating a simpler, more centralized IT infrastructure.

In the future, I believe we’ll see an increased use of software as a service. Taking advantage of a hosted service to maintain operations without the logistics of maintaining current infrastructure or expanding infrastructure is another way of bringing down energy costs and usage.

Rules, Regs and Compliance

Trent Henry

VP and research director, security and risk management strategies, Burton Group

When I consider the future of compliance, two “J” words come to mind. The first is “just,” as in “just part of my job.” That is, we’ll focus less on compliance and more on prudent controls within the enterprise. And those controls will be part of the day-to-day activities of employees, not something special done for an audit report. The second is “jurisdiction.” The global nature of business means that we have to be mindful of compliance issues not only in our home countries but also in other lands. That can be a real challenge because sometimes requirements might be at odds.

Tools We’ll Create

Dave Girouard

Vice president and general manager, Enterprise, Google

Since its birth, IT has been about automation and has been designed around the needs of the business at the expense of people. So a procurement system or a manufacturing system has been designed to automate the business to reduce costs and to increase the speed of the business. That’s what IT has been about, and all those gains have been wrung out. Now the really interesting things are about moving from a business-centric model to a people-centric model. CIOs are still seeing gains from business process reengineering and getting the last bits out of that. Dell has proven that the supply chain model is fantastic, but it only gets you so far. You have to be more than an incredibly efficient supply chain. So what’s really going to define what the business does in the next five or 10 years is more about innovation in the tools people use and the environments people work in.

All Tomorrow’s Software

Grady Booch

IBM fellow, one of the original developers of the Unified Modeling Language (UML)

Software-intensive systems will become increasingly invisible (as they weave into the interstitial spaces of society) and increasingly complex (for there is an essential, inescapable and growing complexity to such systems). Our civilization runs on software, and this reality will become even more true in the coming years. The continuing rise in computing performance and storage will contribute to civilization’s increasing dependency on software: the decreasing size of form factors; the dominance of intimately concurrent (multicore) systems, as well as massive, loosely coupled distributed systems; the presence of personal automated devices plus pervasive embedded systems and the advances in materials such as digital paper and the global economic pull toward software-intensive systems. There will undoubtedly be some technical breakthroughs that we cannot anticipate: quantum computing, robotics, practical AI. These are all areas ripe for advancement. However, that being said, one thing we know is true: Developing software-intensive systems has been, is and will remain fundamentally hard.

Whither the CIO?

June Drewry

VP of the Society for Information Management’s Leadership Development Institute and global CIO, Chubb & Son

The CIO role has been increasing over the years with no indication that this is just a short-term situation. Technology permeates everything we do today. The technical choices, integration and execution get more and more complex. Only a very naïve person could imagine these technical responsibilities disappearing. Additionally, many CIOs are being seen as the best people capable of taking on new enterprisewide responsibilities of innovation, execution or integration.

Short Term, You’ll Still Be Paying for Your ERP

Chad Eschinger

Research director, software markets research team, Gartner

The ERP market will continue to see more consolidation and expansion. Most of the market’s estimated $17 billion size is attributed to annual maintenance contracts. While we’ve seen and estimated solid growth for a market of this size, there are limited new sales opportunities outside of the small- and medium-size business.

Current sales activity with global organizations resides with instance consolidation and add-on sales as we find a majority of companies holding off major upgrade projects until the viability and commitment to existing portfolios can be articulated. We expect to see price compression to continue as the major ERP vendors assimilate yesterday’s innovation into new releases, which will also continue to raise the bar for specialized vendors, making enterprise decisions more difficult. We also expect that SaaS will have an impact, though more in human capital management than in any other ERP market segment.

The Outsourcing Horizon

Jeanne W. Ross

Principal research scientist, MIT Center for Information Systems Research

The future leads to greater commoditization and componentization. Exhausted from efforts to meet the needs of clients who want customized services at bargain prices, outsourcers will shy away from big negotiated deals and work toward developing a menu of standard, individually priced products. Outsourcing vendors will learn the art of cross-selling to enhance customer loyalty. Vendors will innovate only to the extent that it saves them money or helps them introduce new mass-market products or services. But they will contribute to client innovation by allowing managers to focus on strategic opportunities rather than on managing commodity processes—or the vendors that provide them.

Global customers will insist on global providers. But as the wage differentials from country to country start to diminish, vendors will reorganize around regional offices that will offer affordable wages by locating facilities outside of major cities. Vendors will thus adopt organizational structures similar to those of their clients: federal organizations that push much decision making to local offices. Wages will be somewhat higher when vendors rely primarily on onshore support, but the coordination costs will be reduced.

Today’s Kids, Tomorrow’s Leaders

Linda Goodspeed

CIO, Lennox International

The children of today communicate constantly and virtually. They are technically articulate and are expert multitaskers. If you extrapolate from current trends to the next 10 years, these children will be the leaders of masses of people in virtual corporations. All leaders will be CIOs of one nature or another. They will learn quickly and think naturally in terms of what technology can do for them. The function of running the company’s back office may still be leveraged in one group, or outsourced, and the change management of software will still be required, but I see strategy and IT merging to deliver business benefits much faster than we can imagine.

Mass, decentralized customization of business unit strategy led by business information leaders may occur. This new world will enable every business leader to change the system autonomously and rapidly while maintaining back-office synergies. I also believe that the world of virtual gaming and simulation software will be a way of life in corporations as we simulate and test market conditions before introducing new products or rolling out new business strategies. Today people go to school to learn technical or IT skills and join a company to gain business knowledge. This may be completely reversed in the future. IT skills will be a way of daily life and schools will need to focus on business skills to prepare students for this real world since so much of their time will be spent in a virtual world.

The CIO, Transformed

John Stevenson

former CIO of Sharp Electronics, board member of the Society for Information Management Foundation, president of JG Stevenson Association

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