diginomica 2017 – the year according to Phil


Conversational computing, enterprise collaboration and XaaS – everything as a service – stood out among the big themes for Phil in 2017

(1) Conversational computing and headless apps

The emergence of conversational computing heralds a period of root-and-branch reinvention for enterprise applications, in which existing functionality is unbundled and then recombined in new ways.

Why? For me, this was the most significant and surprising trend to emerge in enterprise software during the year. Enabled by AI (of which more in a moment) and embedded in digital messaging and collaboration tools (more on those further on), the ability to engage in conversation with computing is as big a change as the transition from green screens to the graphical user interface. The underlying apps become headless, which turns them into functional utilities, and then commodification begins.

(2) Here come the robots, but not yet

The fact is, we don’t need to create a new race of super-intelligent robots to wipe out the human race. We’re perfectly capable of doing it ourselves.

Why? It’s been impossible to ignore the emergence of artificial intelligence as a major new trend shaping the future, not only of enterprise computing but of society itself. That has led to a lot of worry as well as excited anticipation. But as with any newcomer on the technology scene, expectations of AI are racing ahead of what the current technology can realistically achieve.

(3) The triumph of cloud

Build confirmed — if anyone still needed persuading — that the cloud, and more specifically Azure, has superseded Windows at the center of Microsoft’s universe today, with AI its core.

Why? It wasn’t only Microsoft that succumbed to the march of cloud computing this year. Even Oracle has finally acknowledged the supremacy of cloud. Of the enterprise majors, only SAP still has one foot on-premise while it works to prove HANA at cloud scale. Having championed SaaS and cloud computing from the very beginning, I feel vindicated — but the journey’s not done yet.

(4) APIs and the consumerization of integration

What used to be called ‘middleware’ — the hidden and often arcane field of enterprise application integration — is suddenly sexy again. Or at least, it’s back in demand.

Why? Back in the early days of SaaS, we used to dream of being able to connect together loosely coupled, on-demand microservices. This year I saw it demonstrated live on stage during a Twilio keynote. This is not the monolithic, cumbersome middleware of old. A new generation of vendors are enabling fluid, snap-in-place connections that in many cases can be managed by business users.

(5) The Wipro story

It’s not an ‘or’, it’s not the Wipro way or the Appirio way, it’s the ‘and’ — how do you marry two different selling motions and value propositions into one?

Why? Like all its peers, IT services giant Wipro has to transform its business for the digital era. Its chosen route is to accelerate that change through acquisitions — of design agency Designit, cloud integrator Appirio, and most recently UX design consultancy Cooper. Drawn into this story by longstanding coverage of Appirio, I’ve been intrigued to watch it play out and see what lessons can be learned.

(6) Retail’s transforming on the inside, too

The biggest threat I see to Walmart is groupthink.

Why? Retail is one of the industries most strongly affected by digital transformation, but much of the coverage focuses on the consumer experience. An equally significant change is happening behind the scenes, in how retailers manage their supply chain, how they work with their staff, and how they manage change internally.

(7) Collaboration meets Kanban

At the beginning of the year, I argued that content platforms had to be the center of gravity for collaboration in the digital enterprise. But developments this year have changed the landscape and now the combined effect of AI and APIs make it possible — actually preferable — to anchor collaboration in messaging.

Why? I’ve long believed that connected digital technology makes the role of collaboration absolutely central to the operations of the digital enterprise — to the extent that collaboration becomes a fifth application pillar alongside the traditional quartet of ERP, CRM, HCM and SCM (or their successors). This year, augmented by the emergence of conversational computing, the shape of that fifth pillar has finally become clear.

(8) XaaS – everything as-a-service

Every type of product and service is first of all being transformed by software — and then supercharged by connections. The end result is that every business is moving towards providing everything as-a-service — a phenomenon we at diginomica are calling XaaS (pronounced ‘X-ass’).

Why? Some people talk about the service economy and servitization, others celebrate the subscription economy and the shift away from product sales to continuous engagement. But how do these assorted trends relate to each other? This is our pitch to make sense of it all.

(9) Heading for a frictionless world

Digital transformation is not just about changing the technology, it’s about changing the way the enterprise works. We’ve got to use the technology and its connectedness to sweep away all of those barriers.

Why? A long-running theme of mine has been the notion of frictionless enterprise, which is diginomica’s framework for understanding and mapping digital transformation. We’ll be expanding further on this in 2018.

(10) Now some words from our sponsors

After all, the most successful companies today are those that have created new solutions to customer needs.

Why? At diginomica, we provide a platform for our partners to engage with readers through their own content, which we publish separately from but alongside our own independent content. So as my tenth pick, here in chronological order is a short sample of the most popular posts contributed by partners during the year.

Image credit - Freeimages.com

Disclosure - At the time of writing, Infor, Oracle, New Relic, Salesforce, SAP, ServiceMax, ServiceNow, Workday, all cited above, are diginomica premier partners. Apttus funded the author's accommodation to attend Dreamforce this year.

    1. Thinking through Phil’s year: conversational functional headless apps. The browser manufactures through JavaScript (the consumer web) not Windows, Unix, Linux through Java (in which majority EnSW apps portfolio are programmed). Is the standard UI delivering AI. From this observation computer security will need to change because the headless functional apps will be embedded in new distributed workflows covered by Diginomica. I would posit security is on a journey to be far more granular and tokenized. Thus the booming crypto-currency token economy makes sense for crypto-commerce, because it delivers granular computer security unfamiliar to enterprise apps patterned off current operating system security. Thus why we have so many severe Equifax class security hacks.

    2. Dennis says:

      We are currently surrounded by so many different forms of technology, and whether we realize it or not, it has become completely intertwined into our daily lives. I can’t imagine going a day without being able to communicate with Alexa and Siri, and get quick answers and assistance from them throughout my day. At this rate, our future will be filled with AI doing all of our manual labor, with robot factories taking care of all of our menial tasks. Retail is a great example of how we’re already moving into the future, replacing human cashiers with check-out stations. Can’t wait to see what’s next!

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