November 1, 2011
We are currently in a technology growth cycle, which is likely to continue for another five to seven years.* The opportunities presented by the likes of cloud, mobile, social, and big data are abundant. I'm wondering if EAs are overly focused on consolidation, simplification, and cost control, which could lead to missing the boat. Alternatively, companies may just leave EA behind as they sail to newer, profitable waters.
In Forrester's September 2011 Global State Of Enterprise Architecture Online Survey, we asked architects to prioritize the following challenges, and here is what we found:
While 37% of firms told us that improving how their firms identify and integrate new/disruptive technology was high priority, it was a substantially smaller percentage than the other nine challenges we asked about. Compare this to: 1) a similar CIO survey that ranked business technology innovation as the top priority, and 2) another EA survey question indicating that "using technology to increase business competitiveness" was the number three IT driver for EA programs.
My concern is that other things may be distracting EA attention away from the opportunities that abound in this growth cycle. Consider:
1. There is a linkage between innovation, new technology, and market disruption. While innovation does not require new technology, and new technology is not always disruptive, disruptive technology changes the value trajectory of products and services, leading to shifts in market leaders and losers. EAs must pay attention. A Forbes article on the most-innovative companies concludes that companies with a record of innovation command premium stock prices – the word is out, and businesses are demanding technology as a path to innovation. They won't wait on EA to get what they need.
2. Most firms still have years to go on their technology consolidation/simplification journey. While many EAs boresight on standardization and simplification, the opportunities for technology-fueled growth are not stopping but won't last forever. For example, one video rental firm used elastic cloud infrastructure to manage demand peaks and made video streaming an affordable alternative to shipping DVDs. Now DVDs are going the way of video tapes as we increasingly rely on video-on-demand. Think somebody didn't lose on that shift?
Where is your firm in all this? Are you missing the boat? Am I on to something or off base in my thinking?
* Note: Plotting IT spend versus GDP since 1950, we have seen four growth and refinement cycles lasting about 15 years each: mainframes, PCs, networks, and now "technology everywhere." This latest one started about 2008 or 2009. In all fairness, our recent global technology market outlook shows a slowdown as companies fear double-dip recession, but technology innovations driven by cloud and mobile are still profoundly changing the market at an unprecedented pace.