2010 was a transition year for the tech sector. It was the year when cloud suddenly began to look realistic to the large companies that had scorned it. It was the year when social media suddenly became serious business. And it was the year when hardware and software were being united as a platform – something like in the old mainframe days – but different because of high-level interfaces and modularity. There were also important trends starting to emerge like the important of managing information across both the enterprise and among partners and suppliers. Competition for ownership of the enterprise software ecosystem headed up as did the leadership of the emerging cloud computing ecosystem.
So, what do I predict for this coming year? While at the outset it might look like 2011 will be a continuation of what has been happening this year, I think there will be some important changes that will impact the world of enterprise software for the rest of the decade.
First, I think it is going to be a very big year for acquisitions. Now I have said that before and I will say it again. The software market is consolidating around major players that need to fill out their software infrastructure in order to compete. It will come as no surprise if HP begins to purchase software companies if it intends to compete with IBM and Oracle on the software front. But IBM, Oracle, SAP, and Microsoft will not sit still either. All these companies will purchase the incremental technology companies they need to compete and expand their share of wallet with their customers.
This will be a transitional year for the up and coming players like Google, Amazon, Netflix, Salesforce.com, and others that haven’t hit the radar yet. These companies are plotting their own strategies to gain leadership. These companies will continue to push the boundaries in search of dominance. As they push up market as they grab market share, they will face the familiar problem of being able to support customers who will expect them to act like adults.
Customer support, in fact, will bubble to the top of the issues for emerging as well as established companies in the enterprise space – especially as cloud computing becomes a well-established distribution and delivery platform for computing. All these companies, whether well established or startups will have to balance the requirements to provide sophisticated customer support with the need to make profit. This will impact everything from license and maintenance revenue to how companies will charge for consulting and support services.
But what are customers be looking for in 2011? Customers are always looking to reduce their IT expenses – that is a given. However, the major change in 2011 will be the need to innovative based on customer facing initiatives. Of course, the idea of focusing on customer facing software itself isn’t new there are some subtle changes. The new initiatives are based on leveraging social networking from a secure perspective to both drive business traffic, anticipate customer needs and issues before they become issues. Companies will spend money innovating on customer relationships.
Cloud Computing is the other issue in 2011. While it was clearly a major differentiator in 2010, the cloud will take an important leap forward in 2011. While companies were testing the water this year, next year, companies will be looking at best practices in cloud computing. 2011 will be there year where customers are going to focus on three key issues: data integration across public, private, and data centers, manageability both in terms of workload optimization, security, and overall performance. The vendors that can demonstrate that they can provide the right level of service across cloud-based services will win significant business. These vendors will increasingly focus on expanding their partner ecosystem as a way to lock in customers to their cloud platform.
Most importantly, 2011 will be the year of analytics. The technology industry continues to provide data at an accelerated pace never seen before. But what can we do with this data? What does it mean in organizations’ ability to make better business decisions and to prepare for an unpredictable future? The traditional warehouse simply is too slow to be effective. 2011 will be the year where predictive analytics and information management overall will emerge as among the hottest and most important initiatives.
Now I know that we all like lists, so I will take what I’ve just said and put them into my top ten predictions:
1. Both today’s market leaders and upstarts are going to continue to acquire assets to become more competitive. Many emerging startups will be scooped up before they see the light of day. At the same time, there will be almost as many startups emerge as we saw in the dot-com era.
2. Hardware will continue to evolve in a new way. The market will move away from hardware as a commodity. The hardware platform in 2010 will be differentiated based on software and packaging. 2010 will be the year of smart hardware packaged with enterprise software, often as appliances.
3. Cloud computing models will put extreme pressure on everything from software license and maintenance pricing to customer support. Integration between different cloud computing models will be front and center. The cloud model is moving out of risk adverse pilots to serious deployments. Best practices will emerge as a major issue for customers that see the cloud as a way to boost innovation and the rate of change.
4. Managing highly distributed services in a compliant and predictable manner will take center stage. Service management and service level agreements across cloud and on-premises environments will become a prerequisite for buyers.
5. Security software will be redefined based on challenges of customer facing initiatives and the need to more aggressively open the corporate environment to support a constantly morphing relationship with customers, partners, and suppliers.
6. The fear of lock in will reach a fever pitch in 2011. SaaS vendors will increasingly add functionality to tighten their grip on customers. Traditional vendors will purchase more of the components to support the lifecycle needs of customers. How can everything be integrated from a business process and data integration standpoint and still allow for portability? Today, the answers are not there.
7. The definition of an application is changing. The traditional view that the packaged application is hermetically sealed is going away. More of the new packaged applications will be based on service orientation based on best practices. These applications will be parameter-driven so that they can be changed in real time. And yes, Service Oriented Architectures (SOA) didn’t die after all.
8. Social networking grows up and will be become business social networks. These initiatives will be driven by line of business executives as a way to engage with customers and employees, gain insights into trends, to fix problems before they become widespread. Companies will leverage social networking to enhance agility and new business models.
9. Managing end points will be one of the key technology drivers in 2011. Smart phones, sensors, and tablet computers are refining what computing means. It will drive the requirement for a new approach to role and process based security.
10. Data management and predictive analytics will explode based on both the need to understand traditional information and the need to manage data coming from new sales and communications channels.
The bottom line is that 2011 will be the year where the seeds that have been planted over the last few years are now ready to become the drivers of a new generation of innovation and business change. Put together everything from the flexibility of service orientation, business process management innovation, the wide-spread impact of social and collaborative networks, the new delivery and deployment models of the cloud. Now apply tools to harness these environments like service management, new security platforms, and analytics. From my view, innovative companies are grabbing the threads of technology and focusing on outcomes. 2011 is going to be an important transition year. The corporations that get this right and transform themselves so that they are ready to change on a dime can win – even if they are smaller than their competitors.