Gauging the true pace of business change

While one of the justifications for agile IT is that the speed of business change is becoming frantic, the reality is that the tech landscape truly changes about every five years. While there are plenty of variations and advances the overall theme stays the same.

One of the justifications for agile IT and other such delivery methods is that the speed of business change is becoming frantic. If a business starts a project at the beginning of the year by the end of that year so much would have changed that the need for a faster delivery method is constantly magnified.

But is this assumption entirely true?

One example of a fast moving, visibly changing market is information technology, where we can point to the advent of ipods, iphones, tablets, ultrabooks, Facebook and Twitter as evidence of how quickly things are changing. However, this perception doesn’t necessarily reflect the true nature of business change.

In reality the technology landscape changes is about every five years. Within those five years there can be many variants, initiatives and advances, but the overall theme stays the same.

What has transpired in the last 25 years to illustrate the point.

1987-1992- Client/Server era

Centralised computing became affordable and scalable. Mainframes, minis and micro-computers (remember that language?) were consolidated into client/server machines that allowed much lower (purchase) cost computing – and the software adapted.

1992-1997- The networking era

After promising much for many years, this was the time local area networking (remember that phrase?) and inter-company networks became commonplace. Islands of corporate computing were eliminated by hooking them up to the corporate network. “Communications” was the overriding catch word.

1997-2002- The PC era

This may sound far too late for the PC era, but in the early 1990s few staff had PCs. When I asked a CEO in 1995 if I should plan for all staff to have a PC I was given a resounding “No!” PCs were, up until the late 1990s, only supplied on a ‘need to have’ basis. During this period they became ubiquitous.

2002-2007- The internet era

After the dot-com boom and bust, the internet was no longer hostage to the idea of being a completely different business world and became part of doing everyday business. B2B, B2C and C2C transactions were developed, even email became ubiquitous. Every organisation had to have a URL and website.

2007-2012- The mobile era

Kicked off by the smart phones and reinforced by the tablets and services such as Facebook and Twitter, mobile computing became the driving force of technology. Even at the PC level, portable laptops became the norm. Organizations looked to see if they should be developing ‘apps’ and supporting phones.

In each five-year era although many things were going on, developments were happening and new products were being launched, basically, only one aspect dominated. A confluence of events and technologies occurred to enable one technology stream to dominate for a period until it became the norm.

So what’s next?

2012-2017- The Cloud era

Despite all the current hype around ‘Big Data’ (being pushed by hardware companies with a vested interest in selling more hardware) I believe the next five years will be the Cloud era. More and more individuals and organizations will be interfacing with the Cloud. Individuals are already storing their music, books and personal details in the Cloud and over the next few years, businesses will move at least their non-essential systems to the Cloud. Many smaller companies will own no systems in the future and operate entirely via their PCs, mobiles and Internet with the Cloud.

2017-2022- The Big Data era?

The capture of all of this information in the Cloud will then enable ‘Big Data’ for the few – those with access to the information in the Cloud. This will be those managers who are managing the Cloud services and are, therefore, able to look across organisations to identify the trends, patterns and consequent business drivers and sell this information to the rest of us. 

The bottom line is that we should not get carried away with the number of new phone handsets being launched and their upgraded functionality – instead we need to step back and take a more holistic view as to what the major trends are and plan and adapt accordingly.

Business change is not frantic, it’s a five-year process and there is nothing to suggest that this pattern is going to change anytime soon.

Jed Simms is the founder and creator of Totally Optimised Projects (TOP).