The big trends Accenture says will change the future of technology

Take a look around the corner and look at a world of IT that barely resembles what enterprise computing looks like today – where "The role of technology changing; it is no longer in a support role. Instead, it is front and centre driving business performance and enriching people’s lives like never before."

All this is according to a global study from Accenture. The context here is that this is the sixth such annual report and that the methodology is based on a five year look by Accenture researchers and scientists on what IT developments are likely to have a significant impact on its clients in the next five years.

It claims a wide range of sources were tapped for the report, "including the flow of venture capital funding, trends highlighted by IT analysts, key themes at industry conferences, and academic literature, while the firm’s original research into the characteristics of high-performing IT departments was also used.

At the other end of this is a piece of research that claims to have spotted a number of emerging trends that "challenge long-held assumptions about IT – and are poised to reshape the business landscape".

Hmm, well, we’ll see; we are allowed to wonder if this does indeed betoken "dramatic changes to the face of enterprise computing" or is just a bit of PR. Or even, to be honest, that new and shocking.

I can’t see anything in this paragraph that makes me think I’m watching either ‘Dr Who’ or ‘Doomwatch’: "The emerging world of information technology is one in which data is king, social platforms evolve as a new source of business intelligence, and cloud finally delivers on IT’s role as a driver of business growth."

Perhaps that’s a bit unfair – Accenture isn’t a science fiction writer, it’s a grown up management consultant.

So let’s assume this is all near-future stuff and see what it has to say. First, it says one of the most significant trends the team has identified is that the age of "viewing everything through an application lens is coming to an end."

Instead, platform architectures will be selected primarily to cope with soaring volumes of data and the complexity of data management, not for their ability to support applications.

Next, our "tried and true" relational database will not go away, but will soon start to make way for other types of databases – streaming databases, for instance – that mark a significant departure from what IT departments and business users have relied on for decades. (I’ve never heard of streaming databases, so this is intriguing.)

At the same time, IT and business leaders will begin to view application services as utilities that can be procured off the shelf meaning the roles of application and data will be reversed, with data becoming the platform that supports application services. In response, "Business leaders will be encouraged to reframe their IT orientation around the idea of data platforms."

The research also predicts the evolution of social media into social platforms, which means company Web sites may longer be the first port of call for customers, an interesting observation as this has the potential to "disrupt the way companies conduct business, posing new challenges – and opportunities – for IT".

For example, "social identities" – based on the rich history of information that individuals leave in social networks – might become much more valuable to businesses than the traditional and isolated information they get when an individual registers on their corporate website.

The firm also envisages a "new conversation" emerging around cloud, which it believes will become so pervasive that the term itself becomes superfluous. Thus hybrid clouds – software as a service (SaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) in combination with internal applications – will "cement IT’s role as a driver of business growth."

In response, the focus will shift from simple infrastructure solutions to developing cloud strategies that deliver increased functionality and flexibility using a mix of public and private cloud-based application and platform services. All in all, "While many challenges remain," it concludes, "cloud is nonetheless poised to change the face of enterprise computing. "

The other trends identified in the report include changes in the way data security will be perceived and actioned, individual data privacy will "take centre stage" as a result of "increased government regulation and policy enforcement."

Meanwhile, look for changes in the way we deal with Business Intelligence and analytics, with the team warning that organisations that "continue to view analytics as a simple extension of business intelligence" will be "severely underestimating analytics’ potential to move the needles on the business."

In infrastructure terms, the Labs sees a move from a server-centric to a more service-centric model, as CIOs move away from monolithic systems that were wedded to one or more servers toward finer-grained, reusable services distributed inside and outside the enterprise to meet a goal of decoupling infrastructure, systems, applications, and business processes from one another.

There is undoubtedly food for thought here and I think the company has a solid basis for the predictions. I think I could have done without the hype that this suggests a radically different world, is all. It’s in fact the world that smart CIOs have been planning for – and making happen – for quite some time. If it’s all news to you, then you may need to wake up and smell that coffee, methinks.

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