Enterprise Information Technology In 2020

by Ananthan Thandri Vice President & CIO, Mentor Graphics

Enterprise information technology is facing unprecedented change due to the morphing workforce and pervasive digitization, as it moves squarely into the 21st century. Soon there will be five generations of employees working together—from new graduates to those approaching their 70s. The majority entering the workforce by 2020 will be raised on a continual diet of ever more accessible, intuitive electronic devices and services. They are the first generations to grow up with broadband Internet access, PCs and mobile devices. Smart phones and tablets are deeply embedded in their daily lives and Google, Facebook, YouTube, SnapChat, Twitter, Instagram, Pandora shape how they shop, converse, live and are entertained. Their experience with technology is instantaneous, mobile, socially networked and with easy-to-use gadgets.

It is these young professionals, surrounded by ubiquitous consumer electronics all their lives, that will transform how we all work. They are digital natives, raised with an appetite for technology and speaking in LOLs, LMAOs and OMGs. As a result, they will demand that the workplace support their consumer experience of always on and easy to use, with accessible connectivity to support greater interdependence between professional and personal activities and more technology choices.

So it is reasonable to ask whether enterprise IT will even exist in 2020, with its traditional structure carefully built over the past 50 years. I doubt it. Consumerization of IT has made the individual’s ‘user experience’of paramount importance and today’s enterprise IT in most cases is not equipped to deliver engaging ‘user experience’. The young generation today expects delivery on various kinds of mobile devices and applications built for specific functions, not monolithic big integrated systems

No enterprise provides this in the present. This needs to change to be relevant in 2020. Some key areas where consumer IT will profoundly alter expectations in the 2020 corporate IT environment are as follows.

User experience: In the consumer space, almost everyone already relies on cloud services if they use DropBox, Google, Evernote, Office 365 and many more out in the market today. Users, unconcerned with the nuts and bolts behind the service, expect to simply download an app and use it within minutes without any outside help. Overall the user experience with the consumer facing applications is brilliant! Younger workers will expect the same ease-of-use at work. Can you imagine these folks grappling with today’s enterprise application when entering their yearly benefit choices or tracking their time? These enormous applications are complex, painfully slow to navigate and require weeks of training if used on a daily basis. Enterprise systems in 2020 should provide a more consumer-friendly model to encourage adoption and use in the workplace.

Applications Development: Anyone using a smartphone knows how frequently apps are updated. Instead of major releases, it is an ongoing, continuous improvement process. How many enterprise IT organizations can boast getting frequent upgrades with functionality improvements? The era of carefully planned system-development life-cycle management, such as the Waterfall concept, that has long dominated enterprise IT, cannot keep pace with the increasing dynamism in the business needs. By the time an application is implemented using traditional approaches, the business model often has changed. Enterprise applications development in 2020 should be more agile and deliver continuous improvement. We will see more of decentralized loosely coupled web/mobile-first applications and less of ‘one size fits all’ monolithic ERP systems.

Application Delivery: It is impossible to imagine using an iPhone without an app store or an Android phone without Google Play. So why can’t there bean app store for the enterprise? The catalyst to this is the unparalleled growth of mobile internet and the emergence of internet of things like wearable gadgets. The delivery of these consumer facing apps and services is shaping the user experience. Today IT organizations sends automatic push for security updates and anti-virus definitions, but when it comes to applications/tools employees need for their job we send a link to download or send someone to install in their computer. What mobile phone user would be satisfied with links instead of an app store? The app store approach is a highly efficient way to offer employees all the software tools they need to do their job.

Processing Big Data in real time: Companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook and others use the huge amount of consumer data they collect online to predict and anticipate consumer wants and needs. Enterprise IT in 2020 should do the same, moving from analyzing historical trends and operational reports to using Big Data to uncover real-time patterns to formulate predictions of future business trends and customer needs. The key technologies for making this transition like flash storage, in-memory database, distributed computing and/ or converged engineered systems are already available today and are possible to implement in the corporate IT environment in just a few years.

Predictive information security: Cybercrime continues to rise, threatening the enterprise. The recent breach at Target is a good example of how sophisticated the criminals are becoming in hacking into company networks. Internal breaches continue to rise too, which is a much bigger concern. So it is time to go beyond blocking and tackling. Information security should be able to anticipate, prioritize and mitigate. By 2020, information security should transition from being reactive to being proactive. Many clues can be obtained from employee behavior/activity that is an indicator of a possible breach. Information security should be able to use this information to thwart any internal breaches. Information security should also be harnessing intelligence with the help of government and non-governmental agencies to proactively anticipate and take action against external cyber threats.

Finally, it is all about people

As millennials enter the job market and five generations of workers work alongside each other by 2020, enterprise IT can become the glue that keeps the corporation functioning smoothly. So plan on and embrace continual adaptation. Most importantly, hire IT specialists that excel in collaboration, have more analytical skills with an acumen for business analysis, creative and critical thinking. But above all, hire people with the right customer service attitude.

To go back to my original question of whether corporate IT will even exist in 2020: the answer is, yes it will, with a lot more relevance, if and ONLY if IT can adapt to consumerization and provide an overall engaging user experience.