Everyone wants to have an oracle at their service. We wish we could know what will happen next so that our bets can be placed in the best places. Even better…don’t place bets but instead make the right investment once and only once. To do this, we need to correctly anticipate what is coming next. There is, however, an increasing challenge in anticipating the future: It is very hard to know the meaningful predictors from the irrelevant noise. As volumes of information increase, the signal to noise ratio moves quickly in an unfavorable direction. Only cleverly applied and cutting-edge technology can cut through this.
An old story: A little old lady called a plumber when her home’s boiler developed a problem. He arrived, looked at the boiler and then pulled out a hammer. He tapped once in one place and immediately the problem was solved. The very pleased customer asked, “How much do I owe you?” “Two hundred and ten dollars,” he replied. “That much for just a tap?” she queried? “No,” he responded with a self-assured smile, “the tap was ten dollars. Knowing exactly where to tap, that was two hundred.”
Big Data has this problem. We can store increasingly large amounts of data, even beyond what we can sift through. The trick is really to know where to ‘tap’. To bring that point home, consider this: All of the data that was created since the beginning of mankind to 2008 has been increased tenfold just in the past four years. We are awash in data, and our ability to measure, push/pull and store just increases the pressure to do something with all of that intelligence. Traditional databases are quickly losing relevance in an era where real-time means watching for the appropriate data (or pattern) and keeping it in memory to be used at the right moment.
Digital consumption is also evolving rapidly. Why can’t we have in our workplace what we have in our personal lives? We have our iTunes playlist in our pocket, but we search through a SharePoint portal on a desktop PC trying to find a microsite with important processes? Somehow the technology available to us in the wider world is outpacing what we use at work. We can all make personal data consumption decisions very quickly but companies struggle with anticipating what to build or buy because they’ve been burned on cutting edge technology too many times.
The solution? Avoid investing in point-solution applications and cumbersome front ends and instead create nimble, mobile-enabled platforms that allow the data to be useful regardless of the source and regardless of the need. Let the user interface be a plug-and-play addition to powerful middleware.
My personal crystal ball shows me that next generation business process infrastructure is focused on rapid capture, automation, event processing/rules, analytics, social collaboration, and the Cloud, with a front end technology that is browser enabled with HTML 5. Oh, and let people consume in the way they choose. They will flock to smart solutions that get work done more easily and faster.
Why HTML 5? Because mobile matters enormously going forward and HTML 5 is able to take rich multimedia and make it lighter on any mobile device while maintaining integrity. HTML 5 doesn’t require plug ins like Flash that make development, deployment and consumption a challenge. The web browser has finally become the application interface and we’d be crazy not to take advantage of this power and flexibility.
Why am I not mentioning big ERP? Because it is non-differentiating (companies using the same ERP begin to look very much the same) and very slow to change and communicate change. Too many companies refer to their ERP as “the world’s most expensive ledger.” The increasing pace of commerce will render these systems as transactional and back end rather than business and customer facing. For independent evidence, see the post on why BPM needs ERP for Gartner’s take from last year’s BPM Summit.
The way to avoid being ‘bleeding edge’ is to make the investment in flexible, adaptable middleware systems that allow the next-great-thing to be added quickly and easily. Your users and customer will love you for it.