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Technology Prections 2015: The Architect Perspective

The annual ritual is here with us again. I am talking about technology predications for 2015. Over the years we have been treated to a customary prophetic exercise by technology sages about what to expect in the coming year. After a year or two we discover that some of the predictions were right, some were wrong and often nobody is sure if other predictions were right or wrong. More importantly, they have largely remained just that, predictions. 2015 is not going to be an exception.   

I want to weigh in on this prophetic bandwagon but with a different touch. Predictably, what we expect from the sages is terms like "Pablets will rise", "Big Data and Analytics", "Security and 3D printing", "Cloud services will become the new data center" etc. The fever of cloud services, big data, 3D printing and the likes has been with us for some time. In other words, we expect to hear of concepts we have been with us before. The sages’ predictions will almost be predictably predictable.
Taking an enterprise view of things, how much of these predictions influence IT budgets to support the business in the years of focus? Possibly at best, these trends occupy a power point slide in an IT strategy document as part of justification of why investment in particular trendy / emerging technologies for an organization should be. Half the time, the trends make little or no sense to the key decision makers who are required to endorse the heavy investment proposal. So they remain just that. Beautiful figures but with little or no appeal to those they are targeted.
Having been involved in multiple consultancy projects in the last couple of years, I see a trend in the technology lifecycle but in public and private sector, as illustrated below:
Lifecycle Stage
Technology planning has lately become integrated with business planning but lacking a formal framework of planning. The planning has been based on gut feel, and reactive approaches influenced by internal and external factors. Competition for example has pushed financial institutions to plan on mobile platforms for service delivery in response to telecom operators. The failure of core business systems has continually led to frequent upgrades or replacement as witnessed by the almost predictable season of replacement / upgrade of core banking systems.
Technology sourcing has been very procurement oriented and often fraught with poor or inadequate terms of reference. The postponement, review and significant variation of RFPs in the process of tendering have been a testament of a poorly planned sourcing process. it has been even more difficult in the public sector where court process has been used to halt the sourcing or award process due to technicalities and alignment with public procurement regulation.
Deployment of technology has been very budget driven and owner based. The enterprise has been transformed into some kind of a farm land that has been divided among brothers. Each brother decides what to plant in their section of the farm and goes ahead to prepare the land for the same. Conflicting initiatives put pressure on the enterprise in terms of time, money and resources. Multiple deployments going live at the same time in a bid to satisfy departmental needs end up destroying the enterprise due to impact in other lines of business that weren’t in the plan. The result is prolonged deployment with hazy and unclear end date for hand over to operations.
The detachment between deployment and maintenance has led to an ill equipped operations team to answer questions of change and effectively deal with disruptions that come with new technologies. A highly pressurized user community that is expected to transition to the new technology and processes, reverts to means to survive with this new way of doing things. Tweaks here, configuration changes there without a formal change process marks the beginning of customization of a technology that has barely been used for its standard features. The result is decimation of funds allocated to the project without a proper alignment with benefits. In the end, comes the birth of a complex behemoth of a highly customized system that has specialists who ‘know it’ and become indispensable. So while the intention of technology refresh was to simplify IT, the lack of coordinated and well planned execution results into more complexity and cost.
As a sage in the enterprise architecture domain, I wish to submit to CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, COOs to tread with care about these fancy predictions. These are the questions I would rather they asked the sages;
  1. How does cloud take me to cloud 9 above my competitors?
  2. How do I extract big value from this big data and analytics?
  3. How does SOA make me soar in business agility and adaptability in a dynamic market? 
My predictions is that as long as there will be continual ignorance of science behind the enterprise, broken implementations, big data with big worries on the bottom line, cloud services with cloudy outcomes or SOA with sour integrations will continue dotting our technology landscape.
According to a research of the 2013-14 global ERP implementations, 73% of the projects were delivered later than the planned date. Close to 74% delivered less than 50% of the benefits envisioned in the implementation. Over 60% were customized with more than 30% customization of the code. It is also recorded that over the past four years, the average cost of ERP implementations has been $6.5 million and the average duration has been 16.1 months. In 2013-14, approximately 54% of projects have exceeded their planned budgets. It is time corporate captains took enterprise architecture with the seriousness it deserves if they want to cut their coat according to their cloth and navigate the dense technology landscape with the precision to pick what works and is effective in their enterprises. 


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