3. The battle of infrastructure is over, the battle of applications is about to begin
Over the holidays I had the opportunity to visit the Churchill War Rooms in London. It contains a museum about the polymath politician, but naturally focuses on the central role he played during the Second World War.
Barely a month after he became Prime Minister, he was forced to announce the humiliating withdrawal of British troops from Dunkirk, but rallied his nation when he noted that “the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin” and called upon British citizens to brace themselves to their duties and persevere in maintaining their independence. His stirring speech had the effect of moving beyond recriminations for what had happened and focusing the nation on the challenges ahead.
This year will witness a similar shift in the focus for IT groups. By the end of the year, many, if not most, will recognize that their struggle to meet the speed and functionality of the public providers is fruitless. More important, they will recognize that their major task is to deliver applications, and spending time agonizing over what infrastructure to use is useless, because that debate is over. IT organizations will adopt the fastest infrastructure available now, and then turn to how to deliver a new class of applications.
One way this focus is going to play out will be a ruthless war for talent. There is a limited pool of people who know how to build so-called cloud-native applications, and the struggle to hire them will be enormous.
It will be interesting to see how the HR organizations within companies seeking to bolster their technical staff will respond to this urgent need – will they push salaries up or will they attempt to apply historic rates applicable to run-of-the-mill talent? I’m betting we’ll see lots of sticker shock discussion in the industry as the implications of this new application focus becomes clear.
4. Reengineering enterprise IT
The now-cliched “software is eating the world” mantra trivializes something quite profound: the role of IT is shifting from “support the business” to “be the business.” The ongoing digitization of products and services means enterprise IT is the new factory (i.e., the manufacturing capability that turns out what the company markets and sells). And, just as many US manufacturing firms in the 1970s and 80s came under relentless pressure from new competitors – think Detroit car firms facing the onslaught of Japanese brands – so too will enterprise IT organizations find themselves encountering highly efficient technology organizations that threaten the established firms.
It’s important to remember that Japanese manufacturers arrived with more than a different form factor – small cars that used less gas than the standard American gas guzzlers. The Japanese implemented an entirely different manufacturing approach (pioneered, in a kind of bitter irony, by an American quality guru, W. Edwards Deming).
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