A short blog to start with, to introduce myself and get the ball rolling.
Fundamentally, having been writing about the technologies of IT for over 40 years, I just get the feeling that everything has been a precursor to, and a practice ground for, the cloud: and that the exploitation of cloud-based infrastructures is the basis on which all future businesses will operate.
One of the key drivers behind the cloud is the way in which it switches the balance between technology and business. We still live, of course, in the days of on-premise systems, where the technology and what it can achieve for business users has driven and continues to drive the relationship between the two. But this is fast changing, and technology is no longer king over business and how it operates, but its fully fledged servant.
Historically, businesses have had to fit themselves around what the technology vendors have been able to provide. And in order to meet the growing needs of business users, the technology vendors have had no other recourse than to make their applications ever bigger, ever more complex, if they were to cover the bases business wanted covering. Implementing some of these applications has become a full time job, not only for skilled individuals, but also complete businesses. Some of these applications have generated whole branches of industry in their own right, dedicated to the task of implementing working solutions for business users.
Then, of course, came the issue of integration and collaboration. These are two excellent objectives that fit the needs of business – and consumers even more so. Getting different applications to communicate effectively is only the technological equivalent (and business necessity) of getting different departments in a business to work together. But when they all spoke different languages’ the problems that followed were huge – file format converters, references to look-up tables and the rest kept getting in the way, and each vendor would insist the problem lay with one of the others. They can easily integrate with us’, was always their standard battle cry.
All of this, and more, conspired to create an environment where the tech vendors – often on the grounds of maintaining their self-referential perception of their differentiation’ in the marketplace – determined what businesses could do and, more importantly, the speed with which they could change what they could do.
The coming of the concept of the cloud has changed all that. Standardisation of the protocols of intercommunication between applications and services has made integration an infinitely more simple task (if XML was human, someone would probably make it a saint for, yea verily, it hath wrought many miracles, most of which we all now blithely take for granted)
In turn, business users can now create areas of collaboration undreamed of before; not only between different departments of the same business, but also between different businesses.
Commoditisation of the technology utilised to provide the resources of the cloud has opened up those resources for all (or an ever-increasing amount of all) to exploit. There is still a way to go on this front, of course. Mobile vendors are still committed to playing the death-game of market differentiation, which most will lose. They all want to lock users in their technology, forgetting the fundamental law of that particular game:
Most attempts at user lock-in will fail, and kill the company as a consequence. Those that do succeed will also lock in the vendor and open the technology to all others.
That is why the issues of standards and interoperability are high on my list of areas of study, for they are the bedrock on which everything else is built. And the fun part is going to be observing and identifying the balance between inevitable change (without which we’d still all be running IBM 360 mainframes) and the need for stability and openness.
From that can come, I believe will come, a complete change in the relationship between technology, for so long the effective master’, and its long-time supplicant, business.
Collective capitalism, the dynamic coming together of co-operating businesses to meet a customer requirement quickly and effectively, will be the order of the day. Indeed, it will become an everyday occurrence, often automated so that even the brand’ business leading the process (the brand name that the customer identifies with a trust most – or perhaps distrusts least) does not always know all the vendors making a contribution to a project.
And the result that all businesses aim for is better business assurance – not just the assurance that the business can ride out the accidents and vicissitudes of business life, but gain the ultimate assurance of having the ability to transform the business to meet the needs of the marketplace. And that does not mean transforming once from on-premise to the cloud’ (in fact, that is probably one of the most dangerous mindsets to adopt in terms of business assurance), but continually transforming the business, using the flexibility, scalability and economic advantages of the cloud to create the business agility needed to hit the market’s needs, when they need them.