The past year brought big changes to the core software applications and tools that companies use every day, and some of those shifts promise to have a particularly enduring impact. Here are five ways the past year changed enterprise software for good.
1. As at home, so at work
Compare today's enterprise software tools with those from just a year or two ago, and you can't help but notice one striking difference: the user experience. Today's software increasingly incorporates ideas and features from the consumer world -- in particular, from smartphones and mobile computing. Interfaces are dramatically simpler, social features are ubiquitous, interactions mimic those we're all familiar with from our personal lives, and absolutely everything is mobile-enabled. This isn't your father's enterprise software anymore, and that's a very good thing.
2. Analytics for all
Another ubiquitous component that wasn't there before is analytics. If they haven't already, you can be sure they're coming soon to work software near you. Analytics capabilities have been democratized. Business users are being freed from submitting an IT request or begging for time with a highly trained analyst; instead, many analytics tools are at their fingertips, giving the power to slice, dice and probe data to their heart's content. Is that a good thing? In many ways, absolutely -- though it's not without potential perils.
3. Big data and beyond
Speaking of data, even it has changed dramatically, and that's forcing yet more changes in enterprise software. Data once meant numbers like "units sold" in a relational database; now, it's outside the box. Not only do we have big data, but we have qualitative data, unstructured data, streaming data, oh my! It's a messy data world these days, and it's bringing about major change both in our databases and in how we approach the data to gain insight.
4. Thinking about (the Internet of) things
Did someone say streaming data? Yes -- and there's no bigger supplier of that type than the much-ballyhooed Internet of Things. Today's enterprise software is increasingly built to accommodate continuously flowing IoT data and make it accessible for analysis.
5. Mad about machine learning
Last but not least, the term "machine learning" is popping up with increasing frequency in the world of enterprise software; Workday has even created a venture fund to further work in the area. It's already begun enriching our software tools with new capabilities, and it looks pretty certain there's much more to come. We're not at 'Ex Machina' levels yet -- but we may be closer than you think. It's going to be fun to see what 2016 brings.