As everyone who works in IT knows, we are living in arguably one of the most fascinating and exciting times since the industry was created many decades ago. The tectonic shifts in technologies, markets, and consumption models are radically reshaping the IT landscape. It’s providing folks in IT with new challenges to adapt and evolve, as well as new opportunities to define the future and lead. What’s driving these shifts and who will be leaders in this next wave of IT?
Disruptive technologies relate to new products, services, and innovations that radically change an industry or business strategy. They often create new markets by disrupting existing ones. Within IT, there are lots of good innovation examples. But how are disruptive technologies such a software defined “anythings”, converged/hyper-converged “somethings”, and all flash “everythings” driving today’s transformational shifts in IT?
If your view is through the lens of an organization that develops and integrates these technologies, it seems obvious to draw the connection that they are driving the shifts we are seeing today. But for users (i.e. the consumers of the services delivered by cool technologies), these gadgets are merely a means to an end. For users, it’s about the way the technology is delivered and consumed that drives major transformation shifts across entire industries.
There are lots of examples we use every day. Ride sharing services allow us to travel locally on a moment’s notice, eliminating the friction of finding and paying for a ride. Streaming services allow us to watch personalized content, from any device, at any time, and from any location. Online retailers allows us to find products, compare prices, and receive them the next day, without having to leave the house or talk to a sales person.
Sure, many of these services are all delivered by “disruptive” technologies under the covers, such as software defined infrastructure running on hyper-converged systems accessing flash storage. Pretty cool stuff to the folks who run the data centers. But to the consumers of these services, what’s cool to them is they can get home using Uber after dinner in the city, catch up on True Detective on their iPad, and order the new Chuck Taylors from Zappos, all with a few taps on their devices. While these capabilities seem to be the norm today, it wasn’t all that long ago that were just as possible as landing on Mars and or the Red Sox winning a World Series.
Similarly in IT, there are more instances of why it’s really the consumption of a technology that drives transformational shifts. Take for example an organization that added Flash technology to support a set of workloads. No surprise, the impact was positive and significant. The performance and latency improvements increased their transaction loads and reduced processing time. The space efficiency allowed them to support additional test and development workloads without having to add more capacity. All good stuff, and capabilities the IT guys were thrilled to be able to provide.
But from the perspective of the consumers of the technology, the most significant impact resulted from operational changes in the way those IT services were being delivered. By transforming their operational processes and workflow, IT delivered the ability fully automate the provisioning, reporting, and chargeback of the service. What used to take days to deliver and consume, could now be done in minutes. The process to provision was simplified into a user based, standardized service catalogue offered through a web portal. The ability to understand how much the user was consuming and how much was available could be transparently communicated. Getting the apps to run faster and use less space was great. But eliminating the operational friction to use the technology transformed how the service delivered by the flash system is being consumed.
The trend is that more organizations are making these types of operational transformations. From an IT perspective, they are not easy transitions to make and require partnerships with providers who can deliver more than just a cool technology. What’s becoming clear is that the emerging leaders for this next wave in IT will provide the end to end capabilities and complete ecosystem to not only make the infrastructure better, faster, and more efficient, but also transform how users can consume the technology.
As a result, technologies developed and implemented by “single product” focused companies will find it more difficult to be successful in the long term. While there is a short term ability to disrupt other older technologies, it becomes difficult to maintain that advantage over the long term. That said, while “portfolio” companies can deliver more complete solutions, there’s still a need to invest in technology development to avoid falling behind, even if it means disrupting themselves.
It’s the rare combination of both, the ability to develop disruptive technology, and have the breadth to deliver it as a part of a complete solution that integrates into a user’s ecosystem that has the best opportunity lead. When you look at the market today, there’s a long list of technology “disruptor” product companies. There’s also a long list of large, established “portfolio” companies. But the list of those who can do both well, is pretty short. But it seems to be where organizations are beginning to shift their IT strategies and investments going forward.
Scott Delandy @scottdelandy