5 Whale-Sized Megatrends from JE

Call me JE.

I’m returning from years at sea, working within scrappy development tool startups, and multi-billion-dollar enterprise IT vendors. Seeing enterprise applications move from the mainframe, to the desktop, to the web, and to cloud services through mobile devices.

If you’re an old salt at business, you have survived massive sea change in the last 20-30 years, as relentless waves of innovation and disruption buffeted you.

Even if you started in the last 5-10 years, chances are, your earliest foundational knowledge of customer experience, the role of IT and the nature of work itself has likely washed away. Kudos on your ability to adapt and flow with such major changes.

I’m joining Intellyx to plot more points on the course Jason Bloomberg and Charles Araujo have charted for businesses embarking on a journey of Agile Digital Transformation.

Intellyx offers me a unique opportunity to help enterprise customers understand how to differentiate between an often-confusing array of technology product messages, and the practice of applying these technologies to respond to business disruption.

Go figure – the business values impartial, outside perspectives in their IT and service decision processes, more than vendor pitches!

I’m also looking forward to helping enterprise-focused technology companies like the ones I’ve worked for with their go-to-market strategies. As a former software marketing client, I’ve employed Jason Bloomberg’s third-party insights to augment my own team’s product marketing messages to useful effect.

In a sense I feel like I’ve been part of this commentary all along. Over the years, as an information architect, UX designer, and marketing lead in both startups and enterprise software companies, I’ve produced too many articles and videos on the latest disruptive trends and changes to count. (I even got to write “The Story of Java” interviewing some of the early Sun folks back in 1996, if that dates me as an old salt!)

The best tool in our arsenal for reacting to disruptive change is wetware, not software — it is keeping an agile, open mind. I’ve had plenty of opportunity to form my own opinions, but I have never held an assumption that isn’t open to debate. Looking forward to the dialogue with Intellyx members and followers on this journey.

Now, the Five Whale-Sized Megatrends

Experts will tell you that the next waves of technical change will always come on faster and hit harder than the previous ones. You might say these changes occur in parallel with Moore’s Law of doubling compute power every year, but the overall rate of innovation seems to be moving faster than that, through the practice of converging several schools of thought into what we’ll call the five Whale-Sized Megatrends.

Intelligent Enablement. How do companies that thrive today approach educating customers and partners, giving them the best tools and opportunities to succeed? How do they cultivate better talent and mentorship from within, and equip their own solutions/services, sales/marketing, and operational teams?

Could AI and machine learning leverage a world of big data, combined with better systems of collaboration and automated interaction (such as smarter chatbots), to delight customers, or maybe even improve global conditions? Innovators in this area are working toward nothing less than making humans more productive as a species.

Supply Chain for Goods and Software. Few people in IT realize that the latest DevOps organizational thinking already happened decades ago in the supply chains of big industries that make our cars, food, electronics, and pharmaceuticals.

It’s about time the constraint-based planning principles of Deming and Goldratt finally bled into the world of software development through DevOps and agile architecture practices.

There is still a long way to go in the software world toward reducing the inventory buffers of IT (technical debt), while increasing build quality at every stage, with the ability to deliver as promised to customers.

Blockchain, Decentralization and Cryptocurrency. Looking into blockchain reveals a chaotic, counterculture marketplace of technology and investment strategy that is every bit as immature and overhyped as you’d expect. However, I am bullish about the impact of this space, unlike my outspoken Intellyx colleague, blockchain skeptic Jason Bloomberg.

True, there are criminals in this space and gushing idealists, but there are also a lot of people with their hearts and minds in the right place, hoping to effect real progress toward the first breakout businesses.

The disruptive winners will not simply pilot anemic private blockchain networks or digital ledger technologies that big players have blessed (in essence, simply running a ‘network somewhere else’).

Rather, they will combine hybrid blockchains with useful decentralized business models and fast-moving digital currency in specific areas where distributed consensus and immutability offer the most value – probably first in supply chain and government services.

Build and Compute Everywhere. Combining the mass adoption of Cloud and serverless container environments with ubiquitous mobility and mobile-first user experience means compute resources and customer endpoints will exist everywhere, even for business applications.

All constituents of any service provider will expect nothing less than increasingly valuable enterprise-grade services that the provider can assemble and deliver to them ‘on the fly’ – including not just user devices, but IoT and drones.  The companies that stand to benefit the most from this wave will deliver services from converged architectures that people can compose and consume anywhere with a minimum of technical intervention.

Simulate Everything. As I mentioned in closing the book Service Virtualization: Reality is Overrated, “Success was there for the faking all along.”

Businesses will see their people trade more and more ‘real work’ for simulated work, with better results. Simulation will exponentially increase in strength. Virtual tools may become the most powerful tools in the enterprise arsenal for transformation.

Whether responding to ‘what if’ scenarios for peak traffic or zero-day threats, predicting the behavior of materials in nature or customer sentiment in markets, and applying game theory and/or VR to provide customer incentives or teach a complex new concept, what’s not real is becoming very real for business.

The Intellyx Take

Like a great whale, any one of the above megatrends could easily crush the biggest business with a flick of the tail and scatter your crew to sea, if you find yourself in their path. But you don’t need to go down in a fight like Captain Ahab did hunting Moby Dick.

Clearly, ‘doing things the way they’ve always been done’ is the bigger enemy than these whales. Organizational inertia, sunk costs and technical debt, overcommitted resources, low morale, customers treated like assets… all indicators of an enterprise that is too slow to turn, and too big to remain whole.

Instead, why not think of these whales as our big, deep friends. Perhaps you can position yourself ahead of a whale, and turn to ride the wave of change it brings. If you and your colleagues can become a part of such massive transformations, think about the impact on team morale.

It truly is a great time for an old salt to be alive. And think about the impact that buoyancy would have on every single thing you do for your customers.

Copyright © Intellyx LLC. Intellyx publishes the Agile Digital Transformation Roadmap poster, advises companies on their digital transformation initiatives, and helps vendors communicate their agility stories. As of the time of writing, none of the organizations mentioned in this article are Intellyx customers. Image credit: public domain.

Jason English
Principal Analyst & CMO, Intellyx. Twitter: @bluefug

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