IT Trends – Read at your own risk

This blogpost has been edited and formatted to fit your screen and language changed mid-stream to improve readability – The Agency, funded by your tax dollars.

Stream of thoughts on whats happening in IT – no firm recommendations – read at your own risk, there are no silver bullets here and it may not even enhance your knowledge much.

1. Consumer Software is now more advanced than enterprise software

  • UX – UX of consumer apps like Starbucks, Human are far more better than SAP, Oracle or PeopleSoft. ( I know Apples and Oranges – but, little known fact – when I go to store, I do decide between Apple or Orange for fruit ).
  • Context – when I use my Starbucks app, it knows my context and opens up my e-card to pay.
  • Integration – Starbucks app is better integrated with iOS Passbook than any of the enterprise systems integrating with AD
  • Functionality – Most consumer apps have exact functionality users use – not much gold plating or feature bloat
  • Smarts – Consumer apps are far smarter than any typical enterprise app.

The impact of consumer apps is on expectations – employees need systems that be signed onto, start using in matter of minutes without having to wait for some IT lord to approve it. Secondly, they want it accessible from everywhere, without having to suffer through VPN junk.

2. Enterprise Companies still stuck in old models, not in tune with today’s new employees

As companies start hiring more younger employees, they demand an experience they are already used to. BUs will demand it from IT and if IT can’t deliver, they will try to do it themselves patching together bunch of consumer tools ( think Dropbox + gmail + one of many free conferencing tools + twitter )

Its a reality that most CIOs of the day grew up in the days of green screens and for them web is a huge improvement. What they view as innovation is what today’s ‘younger’ employees view as bare minimum.

There is a huge mismatch in experience, expense and time to procure something using a consumer app vs. using an enterprise procurement system. For ex: compare process of buying coffee at Starbucks using the Starbucks app vs. procure a box of pens at work.

3. Enterprise IT still believes in control based objectives

Typical enterprise IT views employees as someone to protect the enterprise from. Monitoring to stop bad employee bad behavior. It really should be about how to unlock the productivity. If you have to worry about employee’s, how good is your hiring process? Don’t put barricades to make up for your HR short comings.

4. IT Budgets will shrink and they must shrink

IT has become bulky, just like most govt. are. It has structured itself around outdated processes and falsely believes its job is to follow a process defined a decade ago. Innovation takes backseat, while established vendors keep feeding them BS about sticking with what works.

As budgets start shrinking, you will find your enterprise vendor salesmen will start seeing less of you, you will be forced into evaluating cheaper alternatives – you will feel lonely. Get a jump start on it by evaluating more cost effective alternatives – for ex: instead of buying new hardware, evaluate if you can use elastic infrastructure from AWS.

5. Cloud does not solve any of these problems, but if you want to solve them, you need Cloud. ( You also need whole lot of SaaS )

Cloud does not solve any of the identified problems – the solution to those problems starts with IT radically remaking themselves, and in some case, the only positive outcome is for IT to fire itself and decentralize it across different business units.  To fix some of these problems, IT may have to throw their existing processes out the window. This could mean you no longer follow your carefully designed 10,134 step server provisioning process. Also, to improve responsiveness, you may let BU’s provision their own instances of applications ( software, servers etc). This will lead you to Cloud. Now,  you may find that before you get to cloud, your BU is already using AWS. Do not resist it, instead figure out how to adopt it and extend it across the company. Try to add value.

Btw, AWS is not the solution to your problems – it is just one tool, it makes it easy to get started – but it starts to fall apart at scale due to increased costs. AWS is not optimized for massive usage, unless you negotiate special pricing. If you are paying off the street prices and using it heavily, you are getting screwed. So, if AWS is not the final solution, what should you do? Look at an alternative IAAS solution like OpenStack that gives you flexibility on location of your resources and you have better control over costs. Moreover, despite all the API issues, a nice ecosystem is building around OpenStack. Its here to stay.

Should you use PAAS like OpenShift, CloudStack or CloudFoundry – no, not yet – the jury is still out. Unless you are a bleeding edge, stay away from PAAS for now – give it 12-18 months to mature.

Update: Need to read up on CloudStack :).

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