by December 2, 2011 0 comments

Mulholland, CTO,

As with all such statements
it’s a too simplistic generalization, but it does sum up the
current mood which is a mixture of confusion as to whether the new
technologies of cloud, mobility, and big data in particular are, as
many in IT would say, an evolution of what we do today, or there is a
game-changing revolution in play as many in the business world seem
to think. If you are from the IT side then you may be surprised,
shocked even, to see how the business press is engaging with business
managers on how technology is a game-changer. No less a true business
magazine than The Economist has been running an online debate
entitled; ‘Personal
this house believes we are now in a post-PC world
‘ .

The leaders of the ‘for’
and ‘against’ are two technology vendors, Citrix and Microsoft
respectively, and there is the first real clue about this topic.
Citrix is of course a thin client vendor, and Microsoft is still
heavily dependent on thick clients, meaning PCs, though to be fair
Microsoft does not try to deny the motion, it merely suggests that
the world will contain both. Because enterprise IT as we currently
understand it and use it is built on thick client, client-server
applications then it’s a fair argument that we continue to need
PCs, but conversely the business people, whilst acknowledging the
need for enterprise IT, are looking to escape its model to take
advantage of new ‘online’ business solutions. Therefore,
solutions using Internet, Web, services on demand from clouds in a
mobility context of devices with wireless connectivity are all based
on thin clients.

It’s the term ‘solutions’
that gives the real clue to answer the question of is this a true
game-change or not. Business managers use the term ‘innovation’
to define a generation of new business models that allow them to
access and sell to their markets in new ways. To understand this best
either read Mark W Johnson’s book Seizing the White Space
and see his definition of 19 different online business models, or at
least take a look at the ‘Seizing
White Space
‘ website . The solutions
that they want to deploy are only possible because we have new
capabilities by using the new technologies together with different
development and deployment methods that radically change time and
costs. And that brings us back to the paying ‘on demand’ against
consumption both firmly allocating cost to business activities to
show their true profitability, and shifting from long-term capital
investment cycles to short-term operational expenditures.

All of which can be summed
up in the post I made about splitting these two separate activities
up and defining them as ‘inside-out’ for the role of existing IT,
and ‘outside-in’ for the role that business managers want
technology to play. A full explanation of this is on the CTO Blog,
which includes a link to the Capgemini point of view as to how this
changes solutions in the government sector, which can be used as a
comparison to other sectors in the key
pretty easily.

So how do the bigger
technologies look different to the two sides?

Big data from the
IT side looks like the ability to use cheaper and more flexibly
available Mips from virtualization with enhanced storage to be able
to do better fine grained analysis on larger amounts of existing
internal structured data. Viewed from business managers using an
outside-in perspective it’s the possibility to use previously
inaccessible data from online activities in ‘real-time’ to
support decision making around external opportunities probably driven
by the new generation of social CRM. It’s the same with clouds;
inside-out IT sees clouds as technology to reduce cost and improve
the efficiency of operating the current application-centric data
center. The business manager sees clouds creating new environments in
which you can interact or liaise and work with your customers or
suppliers in ways that were simply not possible with closed and
proprietary IT applications.

Mobility is making existing
enterprise IT applications available on wireless devices under the IT
management inside-out view, whereas to the business manager it’s
the capability to be liberated from the PC and internal IT, and use
all the new online capabilities whenever and wherever they choose.
All of which can be summed up in the terms ‘consumer IT’ and
‘Bring your own’, or ‘BYO’ devices meaning that the business
manager gets out of the governance straightjacket on IT and into the
rich online business world versus the IT management fears of such
devices being a dangerous weakness in the security governance model
of internal IT applications.

No wonder the two sides are
confused and in disagreement as to whether we are seeing an evolution
of IT capabilities or a game-changing revolution in business
capabilities to use technology. And this is not only an internal
issue either as the technology vendors are split along these lines
too. Apple, Google, Amazon and are all clearly driving
and supporting the business managers with outside-in capabilities,
and some traditional vendors are clearly looking after their
traditional positioning with the IT department and the resulting
installed base and license income. But this is changing as Oracle at
Oracle OpenWorld introduced their Public Cloud and WebCenter suite of
capabilities aimed at the outside-in market with its own sales force.
SAP seems set to follow the same path with a preliminary announcement
a few weeks later, and others such as EMC also straddle both sides
with traditional IT storage systems as well as cloud storage for the
new markets.

In summary, the answer
that both the IT and business managers’ views are correct, but only
from their individual and different perspectives. The real issue is
that there is a need to see each other’s perspectives and grasp how
to deliver both evolutionary improvements to traditional IT justified
by cost and efficiency, as well as supporting and enabling a
revolutionary business use of technology in game-changing ways that
increase revenues, market share, customer satisfaction, etc — truly
the digital revolution of business!

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