Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Back To The Future


Welcome to the new year. It is January 2012 and you have, no doubt, been reading the many technology predictions published over the last few weeks. Big name magazines like Fortune and Forbes, trade journals like Computerworld and Information Week, leading columnists, bloggers and pretty much everyone chimes in with their forecast for what's hot and what's not in the coming year.

As in the past, the demise of particular companies, if not entire product categories are predicted. Many are ordering funeral arrangements for RIM. One prediction has the on-line retailers stealing share from the big box stores by offering price and convenience at the point of sale, while another has the big box stores crushing on-line retailers with, well, price and convenience at the point of sale. Legislation could have a big impact if internet sales are finally subject to tax.

Social networks, increasingly a source of information and advice, continue to have significant influence on opinions and specifically on purchase decisions. True not only of hard goods but services and media consumption as well. How we find news and entertainment is undergoing a major shift and will continue towards total digitization.

You see a pretty consistent theme with continued growth in the use of mobile devices including tablets, cloud services and social networks. Not much risk in touting these observations.

You can find any number of views on the long standing wars; Apple (IOS) vs Windows, Apple (IOS) vs Android, and plenty of views on which browser, social network or e-commerce site will dominate. Perennial predictions of broad sweeping changes in government and industries like manufacturing, healthcare and energy appear.

Finally, we have the ultimate prediction that the world will end in 2012. A silly conclusion allegedly based on studies of the Mayan civilization.

My level of faith in the accuracy of any of these prediction is about equal (except for the last one.) Some will be right on and others way off the mark. But history has proven we can rarely predict the truly disruptive development before it actually happens.

Does Siri or big brother Watson foretell a new era of audible, contextual computing? Is the Nao Robot the first in a long line of humanoid shaped, electronic companions? Will all of our information and entertainment sources converge into one omnipresent digital delivery platform? Will science ever give us acceptable battery life for our phones? It's anybody's guess and I think we will have to wait and see how it all turns out..

The only prediction I will make is that the role of senior management must evolve quickly to keep pace with the rapid changes in business and technology. You cannot stick your head in the sand and ignore any of the changes mentioned above. Even if only half of them are half right we will be entering a period when we will face a completely new business landscape and you must be equipped to deal with it.

Please note I did not say "IT" management. This is not an error. The role of the CIO has forever changed and we will talk more about that in later columns. But the entire senior management team must become tech aware and tech literate. It is essential they realize the business environment has and continues to undergo a major evolution. While I recognize the world does not revolve around technology, it has become central and critical to operations and, therefore, integral to the success of virtually every company in almost every industry.

If you don't keep pace, I predict you will eventually fail.

Captain Joe

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