Formerly known as Wikibon
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2017 Wikibon Predictions

Premise: The digital transformation continues, leading to both fantastical and hysterical predictions. A healthy dose of practical understanding of technology and its likely impacts is essential to making better technology decisions in 2017.

What’s in store for 2017 and beyond? We’ve huddled with our community and come up with a list of questions that need answering and answers in the form or predictions. The overall theme is: Put more data to work. Our research shows consistently that this current period of digital transformation needs to be understood not in terms of management bromides, but simple prescriptions: If, to paraphrase Drucker, business exists to create and sustain customers, then digital business is the application of data to differentially create and sustain customers. From that perspective, 10 questions emerge that will guide tech behavior over the next 10 years. They are:

  • 2017 questions:
    • What’s driving technology architecture?
    • Do microprocessor options matter?
    • Whither HDDs?
    • Code in the cloud?
    • Amazon momentum?
    • Big data complexity?
  • 2022 questions:
    • New IT mandate?
    • IoT + augmented reality = ?
    • Is this all there is to digital engagement?
  • 2027 question:
    • Will we all work for AI?

2017: What’s Driving Technology Architecture?

Data movement isn’t free. Physics insists that it costs time and fidelity, and WAN providers insist on getting paid. As digital technology moves closer to mechanical or knowledge work, it will drag system requirements with it, and physics and WAN providers will have their say. The following video clip (and all those subsequent) provides greater detail on this point, which leads us to predict that in 2017:

Wikibon 2017 Prediction: IoT edge use cases begin shaping decisions in system and application architecture.

2017: Do Microprocessor Options Matter?

As more computing moves closer to the device or person performing the work — generating new types of systems requirements — the factors that made Intel’s x86 architecture dominant start to lose potency. This leads us to predict that in 2017:

Wikibon 2017 Prediction: Evolution in workloads creates an opening for new microprocessor technologies, which grab 2-3 points of x86 server market share.

2017: Whither HDDs?

Increasingly real-time-like applications operating on broadly distributed microprocessors generates enormous volumes of data, but also consumes huge data. Disk-based storage systems, the “John Henry” of computing for the past 40 years, no longer can keep up — at least not in performance-focused settings. HDD units will continue to grow, but in capacity-oriented settings, replacing tape. The new top dog in storage is flash, which leads us to predict in 2017 that:

Wikibon 2017 Prediction: Anything in a data center that physically moves gets less useful and loses share of wallet.

2017: Code in the Cloud?

Developers have a whole new toolkit to play with, which is comprised of container-based technology. The promise of these new tools are significant: better performing applications, simpler deployment, faster change cycle times, lower exit barriers, greater reuse, among many others. But we’ve heard this before: distributed computing architectures, SOA, and other technologies were supposed to save business from monolithic applications, but it didn’t turn out that way. Conway’s Law, which states that a system’s final design reflects the communication structure of the organization that built it, is alive and well. That leads us to predict that in 2017:

Wikibon 2017 Prediction: The new cloud development stack, centering on containers and APIs, matures rapidly, but institutional habits in development constrain change.

2017: Amazon Momentum?

It seemed like a good idea when officially launched in 2006, but most doubted its effectiveness and impact. No longer. Today, AWS has emerged as a force in the technology industry by offering simple, cost-effective (at most scales), and highly elastic cloud-based computing. A overwhelming number of tech start-ups are built on AWS. What about new digital business infrastructures of less-tech-oriented companies? AWS needs to maintain its simplicity roots if it’s going to attract less-sophisticated enterprises to its cloud options. Thus, we predict that:

Wikibon 2017 Prediction: Amazon has another banner year, but customers start demanding a “simplicity reset.”

2017: Big Data Complexity?

Our research shows conclusively that the promise of big data isn’t being achieved in most businesses, and complexity is the problem. Unless tooling and integration are made simpler, enterprises won’t be able to amass the experience required to establish crucial big data business capabilities. And if business can’t establish the capabilities required to better fashion use cases and sustainably operate analytic pipelines, the potential advantages of machine learning, AI, cognitive, and other big data-related patterns will remain well out of reach. We think bigger, more established companies sense an opening, and thus predict that in 2017:

Wikibon 2017 Prediction: Failure rates for big data pilots drop by 50% as big vendors — IBM, MSFT, AWS, and Google — bring pre-packaged, problem-based, analytic pipelines to market.

2022: New IT Mandate?

Firms organize around their most crucial assets. Historically, that’s been things like money, materials, machinery, product, and functions. The transformation to digital business means that enterprises will start organizing, in part, around data — or, more specifically, around the need to generate more work out of their data to differentially apply it to create and sustain customers. Of course, this already is happening to a degree; the struggle to better understand how to “monetize” data is the basis for boardroom conversations about data security, chief data officers, empirical management practices, etc. As more firms gain get deeper into a data asset groove, we expect that they will evolve the IT mandate to more specifically focus on ensuring that data assets are properly managed, in physical, logical, and organizational terms. This mandate will require IT organizations to change the institutional approaches that have dominated IT for 50 years. Our 2022 prediction?

Wikibon 2022 Prediction: IT organizations organize work to generate greater value from data assets by engineering “proximity” of applications and data.

2022: IT + Augmented Reality = ?

In another prediction, we noted that the internet of things (IoT) is going to powerfully shape the future of technology and application architecture, especially at the edge. But the “things” that enterprises need to weave into increasingly rich webs of work aren’t limited to sensors and devices. People remain the key to business value and success. The “internet of things and people” is a more accurate depiction of the investments that need to be made. That means that a new wave of invention for ethically connecting computing and physiology are on the horizon. It also means that new mechanisms for enacting the digitally-formed decisions through people will be a rich source of innovation, which leads to another 2022 prediction:

Wikibon 2022 Prediction: Augmented reality emerges as a crucial “actuator” for the internet of things — and people (IoT&P).

2022: Is This All There Is To Digital Engagement?

Customer experience has emerged as a central business theme in the last few years, catalyzing new approaches to business decision making, like “design-centered thinking.” Additionally, customers appear to be expressing a preference for firms that provide great digital experiences, as companies like Amazon, Netflix, Uber and others garner success. As a result, firms across the board have rushed to deliver a digital facade, usually in the form of a mobile application that primarily markets a firm’s goods and services. Not surprisingly, most of these mobile apps have been lost in the marketplace. Does that mean that digital business is a failure? Of course, not. Digital engagement remains in demand by customers and will continue to shape B2C and B2B strategies for the next decade. A shift in focus for digital engagement is required, away from a narrow awareness and lead emphasis, to a broader, more comprehensive approach that factors the whole of the customer journey. This will require a rethinking of how marketing, sales, product management, service, and fulfillment functions work together, a proposition that is only possible through expanded and successful application of digital technologies. Will each of these functions enact their own, unique digital infrastructure? To a degree, perhaps. But digital — and data — work best when it’s shared, and some business group will have to step up to take responsibility for how different claims on digital investments and data assets are mediated, applications that perform engagement are built,  and digital systems operate. As a result, we predict that:

Wikibon 2022 Prediction: IT is given greater responsibility for management of demand chains, working to unify customer journey designs and operations across all engagement functions.

2027: Will We All Work For AI?

We are closer than ever to understanding the mechanisms of intelligence. Also, we are able to build the type of powerful hardware and facile, reliable software required to mimic these mechanisms of intelligence, as we understand them. Using emerging AI, machine learning, and cognitive tools, we’re able to demonstrate systems that have the potential to revolutionize how we apportion work, and therefore the institutions that have shaped production for over two centuries. This has led many very smart people to estimate that 50% or more of the jobs in our modern economy will be replaced by computers, leading to unprecedented social dislocation. Are they right? Perhaps, but not in our forecast period. Rather, we believe that computers will continue to replace tasks, including previously safe cognitive tasks, and that this substitution will accelerate the impact of automation on labor. But we also believe that jobs are more than just tasks: People work in complex social networks that will take years to fully understand, even if we understand how individual tasks work and — increasingly — how an individual’s mind works. Our prediction on AI by 2027, therefore, is:

Wikibon 2027 Prediction: AI technology far outpace social advances: Some tasks will be totally replaced, but most jobs will only partially be replaced.

Action Item. IT and business leaders face many challenges and a lot of uncertainty. As businesses continue to transform along digital lines, the intersection between IT and business grows in magnitude. Establishing a clear set of assumptions regarding digital business changes now is everybody’s job. The central assumption remains: Businesses need to take immediate steps to put more data to work. After that, every business will be different, but decision makers should consider these ten predictions as they develop a strategic consensus in their firm.

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