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Six Tech Trends That Will Define 2015

by Mark Adams, on January 16, 2015

Original article at: http://www.baselinemag.com/innovation/six-tech-trends-that-will-define-2015.html

Six Tech Trends That Will Define 2015

The coming year promises to introduce significant disruption and challenges for business and government. These key trends will reshape IT and the enterprise.

In recent years, the pace of digital change has been breathtaking. New tools, technologies and approaches have entered the enterprise, and the intersection of these factors has introduced new and more complex challenges—along with remarkable opportunities. As the calendar flips over to 2015, here are six trends that will shape business and IT in the coming year.

The Internet of things moves into the mainstream.

Hype notwithstanding, it's becoming increasingly clear that the Internet of things (IoT) and connected devices represent enormous potential for enterprises that learn to use these systems effectively. They represent a goldmine of data for business, along with new conveniences and efficiencies for both the enterprise and consumers.

"Although the IoT is still in its nascent stages, it presents opportunities for both the private and public sectors," says Seeta Hariharan, general manager and group head of the digital software and solutions group at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). Driving this trend are better software algorithms, cloud computing, mobility and more robust APIs.

"In 2015, we will see increasing numbers of IoT products and services becoming more widely and commercially available," adds Craig McNeil, managing director at Accenture Mobility, "including in the connected vehicle and connected home spaces."

IT becomes more business-line-driven, and shadow IT accelerates.

It's apparent that IT has undergone radical transformation over the last few years. But what escapes many business and IT leaders is the fundamental shift over who drives purchasing and usage decisions in the enterprise—and beyond.

"We've reached a point where critical IT decisions are too important to be left solely to the IT team, and that's why you get shadow IT," points out Krishnan Ramanujam, global head of enterprise solutions at TCS. "This can definitely be a problem, with shadow IT creating waste and duplication."

Not surprisingly, a key to success is breaking down silos and introducing a more coordinated and integrated approach, particularly between the CIO and CMO. Another key factor is developing the nontechnical soft skills that are needed to manage organizational and operational change.

Chris Curran, PwC principal and chief technologist, notes that 35 to 50 percent of IT spending already lies outside the domain of IT, and the numbers are likely to increase. The key to success, he says, is "codifying" the digital operations model and defining roles across the organization.

IT gets agile.

Only a few years ago, IT projects were typically measured in months or years. Today, update and refresh cycles take place in days or weeks. This is leading to rapid and agile development techniques and initiatives such as DevOps. The offshoot of all this is a need to re-evaluate systems and redraw the road map for the future.

"In 2014, CIOs realized IT application redundancy was significantly draining their companies' resources," explains Ron Tolido, senior vice president of application services at business and IT consulting firm Capgemini. "While CIOs have always understood the need to align their IT functions with the business objectives, the ever-increasing influence of disruptive technologies such as social, mobile, analytics and cloud (SMAC) solutions are forcing CIOs to identify new ways of optimizing performance and improving the application landscape."

This translates directly into purging older legacy applications that add minimal business value in order to free resources for more disruptive technologies that deliver greater results and improve the customer experience. PwC's Curran stresses that a more holistic, cross-functional and scalable approach to IT is critical.

Apps move to the center of IT.

It's no secret that mobility is increasingly at the center of everything. Various industry estimates indicate that mobile Internet access now accounts for 40 to 50 percent of Internet usage, and the numbers continue to trend upward. The upshot? Mobile apps are emerging as the heart and soul of enterprise IT initiatives.

However, success involves more than simply building and deploying apps. It also requires putting data in the hands of users when and where they need it, and, at the same time, simplifying processes. This means tapping into various chips and sensors in the phones and plugging in a growing array of tools.

Satya Ramaswamy, vice president and global head of the Digital Enterprise Unit at TCS, states that only about one in 10 organizations engage in digital reimagination: the ability to weave together digital tools such as big data, analytics, cloud computing, social media, crowdsourcing and the Internet of Things.

Bhaskar Ghosh, group chief executive at Accenture Technology Delivery, says that organizations must adopt a more "liquid" approach, including the ability to rapidly assemble and refresh mobile apps using smaller and more reusable components. These intelligent apps must accommodate a growing volume and velocity of data and "extend company boundaries into new ecosystems," he adds.

Organizations get smarter about big data and analytics.

Today, all IT roads ultimately lead to data and analytics. However, the problem that many organizations face is the need to assemble and arrange all the pieces of the digital puzzle.

"The challenge is figuring out how to best utilize enormous amounts of data," explains Mark Crandall, CIO of Consulate Health. Not only do results spin a tight orbit around identifying the right data points—something that often requires new expertise and skills—but they also connect machines, databases and other systems in new and inventive ways, particularly as the Internet of things takes hold.

As a result, an enterprise may need to adopt standards such as the Electronic Product Code Information Services (EPCIS)—a common format for sharing data using barcodes, RFID and sensors—but also establish real-time connectivity to POS data, clickstream data and other sources. Crandall says that it ultimately means forming new partnerships and establishing new relationships.

Hariharan at TCS believes a unified view of the customer and products is vital. "Advanced enterprises understand that digital transformation is about more than data," he notes. "It extends to restructuring processes, people and organizational systems in order to further distance themselves from their competition."

Open source is everywhere and everything.

A powerful trend in business and IT is the widespread adoption of open-source methods. Although it's tempting to focus on obvious open-source IT initiatives such as Linux, Hadoop, OpenSSL and Apache, the movement is reaching broader and deeper into organizations. Development tools, data storage methods, virtualization techniques, content management and security are a few of the areas going open source.

Meanwhile, initiatives such as OpenStack, OpenFlow and the Open Compute Project are going mainstream. Surveys show that a high percentage of business and IT executives—80 percent or more in many cases—now view open source as a competitive advantage. One thing that makes open source attractive is that it potentially improves quality, speed and security because multiple people focus on the task and identify and fix flaws as they arise.

Tom Archer, U.S. Technology Industry leader at PwC, says that open initiatives are becoming the rule rather than the exception.

Open source is now both critical and transformative, according to Tom Romanich, business manager at Norsk Lastbaerer Pool (NLP), an Oslo, Norway-based company that manages pallets and totes for manufacturers and retailers in Norway and Sweden. "We could not handle a number of key tasks without open source," he says. "It is central to driving gains."

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