It’s the same in economics, fashion, and of course, IT: As the end of the year approaches, experts share their forecasts for the future. Some trends later turn out to be media hype, but which ones? We asked the analysts for their opinions.
Next page: Cloud computing
1. Cloud computing – is the sky really the limit?
The mother of all forecasts, Gartner 2012 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, names cloud computing as one of the big developments. Cloud will have a major impact on the IT world over the next five years. However, Andreas Zilch, member of the management board of Experton Group, believes that cloud computing is currently undergoing a difficult period. The technology needs to make the leap from media hype to maturity, he says. Nevertheless, Zilch also believes this trend will have a lasting influence.
And some effects can already be seen, says Mario Zillmann, senior consultant at Lünendonk. “Cloud computing is a topic that practically all IT providers are driving,” he says. Zillmann adds that it is no longer a trend, but already forms the basis for specific business models.
Peter Lempp, COO of Capgemini Germany, likewise believes that the cloud has shifted from theory to practice, especially the private cloud. Lempp is realistic about the opportunities and limitations of cloud computing. He says, “Cloud services are particularly suited to making changes fast and selectively. However, they don’t necessarily replace integrated IT landscapes. The challenge remains not to create new data silos.”
Rüdiger Spies expects that cloud computing will mean quite a lot of work for CIOs next year. Spies, who is independent vice president for enterprise applications at IDC, explains: “Cloud computing, notably the use of public cloud components, remains a combination of organizational, legal, and technological tasks.” Decision makers need to get the mix right.
Next page: Mobile IT and “bring your own device” (BYOD)
2. Mobile IT and “bring your own device” (BYOD)
Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner, claims, “Employees are determining what the provider market and the company IT environment look like today.” What Milanesi means is: An increasing number of people also use their private handhelds at work. In view of this, many analysts now refer to BYOD almost automatically when the subject of mobile IT is raised.
And mobile IT won’t be easy, thinks Lempp. “Above all, the future is mobile, even if companies are still struggling with extensive hardware procurement and a BYOD approach,” he says. He sees consumer IT as the pioneer. It will “advance relentlessly into the business world,” says Lempp. Spies notes how big the BYOD lobby is. All major providers are investing in their marketing activities. “It’s a hot topic for employees – and IT needs to solve its part of the issue,” Spies says.
But what about security?
Current trends mean that the topic of security is becoming ever more complex and, as a result, also more critical, according to Zilch. BYOD and cloud, too, will amplify this development in the coming year, Lempp stresses. Apparently, Spies can already hear the CIOs sighing when he says that security “tends to be unpopular, but is inevitably necessary.”
That’s why some industry watchers with a macabre sense of humor speak of “bring your own danger” or “bring your own disaster.”
3. Big Data, business intelligence (BI), and analytics
“BI remains high up on the agenda,” says Spies. In this area, Lempp concentrates on master data management and data quality management. “Those are topics that we categorize under the term business information management,” Lempp explains. “IT decision makers will continue to focus on the systematic approach of the application life cycle in IT as well as – and especially – on aligning business and IT.”
Zillmann explains that this topic is “highly relevant,” both strategically – in other words, regarding the benefits of the data for company development – and technologically (data retention, merging, and analysis). Here’s an example: Automotive companies can already incorporate consumer wishes expressed on the Internet into vehicle development and integrate them into the development process. Or product varieties with different features can be developed for certain target groups. Zillmann concludes, “With Big Data and analytics, the winners will be all types of IT companies – including management consultancies – who address the issues of business alignment and new business models and lines.”
However, this optimism is marred by reservations – because the search for the purpose and benefits of the masses of structured, semistructured, and unstructured data requires trained employees – which takes Zillmann straight to the next trend for 2013: shortage of talent. “There aren’t enough employees who can filter out meaningful findings from a mass of diverse data,” he says. Zilch is therefore also more reserved with his forecast: As far as Big Data and analytics are concerned, he merely speaks of a “potentially” high business benefit.
On the topic of Big Data, Zilch stresses the social analytics aspect. Above all, collaboration software will revolutionize the path to the social enterprise, both in the business-to-business and the business-to-consumer sector.
Next page: Outsourcing
4. Outsourcing – companies must look further afield
As Zilch observes, the lack of talent is discussed frequently – and still underestimated. At least in the medium term, he sees in-house training and qualification as a solution, particularly if internal IT organizations widen their horizons and gain more technical expertise. Outsourcing can only be a stop-gap measure.
But many decision makers will resort to outsourcing in 2013 – at least that’s what Zillmann expects. He gives the example of SAP consulting and rollout for midsize and internationally oriented companies. Here, he observes, many companies’ IT departments come up against their limits. There is a growing need for external support.
Furthermore, Zillmann continues, German enterprises seriously require support in setting up organizational structures within the framework of international expansion. “Production locations, sales structures, or administration units (HR, finance) need to be created and hooked up with the other locations and with headquarters,” he explains. “That’s currently a very big issue and leads to many projects for IT service providers.”
Before the theory can be put into practice, however, Zilch believes a number of obstacles must be overcome. He calls for IT decision makers to at last pursue their own sourcing strategies actively and not to simply react. He says, “Nearshore and offshore concepts must also be actively integrated.” But he is not optimistic: He notes that this issue is still dominated by “too much fear and reluctance.”
Next page: In-memory computing
5. In-memory computing
Frank Mang observes the discussion coolly. As the head of SAP business at Accenture in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, he has seen many trends come and go. Mang concentrates on one topic and postulates for the coming year: “Companies who are not yet looking into in-memory computing should start doing so in 2013 at the latest.”
Mang has no time for IT decision makers who complain about constantly increasing data volumes – especially about the growing amount of unstructured data. “The value of data also increases exponentially, provided that you extract information and knowledge from it,” he says. In-memory technology replaces conventional data storage, which – being row-based and organized in silos – relies on structured data. In-memory therefore acts as a enabler for cloud computing, big data analytics, and mobile applications.
Mang sees the “actual revolution” in the real-time connection of transactions and business intelligence. “The tremendous performance and the new way in which data is organized make it possible for analytics to be applied directly to the operational data,” he explains.
Mang is convinced in-memory computing will have a significant impact. “Every single business process will be reexamined,” he believes. Because, even after 20 years of business process optimization, processes are ultimately based on the separation of transaction data and inventory data, which is only brought together after a time delay. “If this separation disappears, the first step will mean the end of many workarounds and interim steps that add no value and only exist due to technical impossibilities,” Mang explains. “Business process reengineering will blossom once more.”
But regardless of where trend analysts and futurologists see developments, Lempp sums it all up: “Things are still exciting in the IT world, in spite of and not least because of the continuous flow of new trends.” And all CIOs will be glad to hear one piece of news: According to the Gartner analysts, budgets will be up slightly in 2013. For the EMEA region (Europe, Middle East, and Africa), a 1.4% increase can be expected.