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Moving the new wave of technology from disruptive to productive

A focus on integration and the user experience will be key to success

July 12, 2012 01:05 PM ET

Computerworld - In thinking about the waves of technology now washing over IT departments, I remembered something from a long-ago physics class. You may recall that when multiple waves, such as sound waves or ocean waves, converge upon one another, you can get either constructive or destructive interference, depending on the timing of their arrival, their angle of incidence and their relative strengths. With constructive interference, the waves combine and gain in amplitude, and with destructive interference, they tend to cancel each other out.

The question that this analogy raises is which sort of interference we will see with the waves currently rocking the IT world. We hope for constructive interference, with the whole greater than the sum of the parts, but how can we ensure that we end up with it?

Before I try to answer that, let me explain why I think this is important. IT organizations are grappling with the simultaneous arrival and ongoing maturity of trends such as social networking, mobile technology and cloud computing. These trends are moving quickly into the mainstream, as shown by a couple of data points. First, according to IDC, the technologies of what it calls the "third platform of computing" generate about 20% of all IT spending today, but are growing collectively at about 18% per year. By 2020, they will account for 80% of all IT spending, IDC concludes. Second, according to Computerworld's 2012 Forecast survey, IT managers are increasingly thinking about innovation and these disruptive trends as they plan their staffing for 2012 and beyond. Some of the biggest upticks in year-over-year hiring plans relate to IT skills such as application development, including mobility; Web 2.0, including social computing; and business intelligence in preparation for big data analytics.

As complex as that might sound, the key to constructive interference is deceptively simple: integration. I say "deceptively simple" because integration is required not just for each individual technology trend, but also across multiple trends, and it must be extended beyond technical integration into strategy integration, process integration and even human integration, in regards to the end-user experience.

Some examples may help to illustrate the situation.

Take social computing. Many organizations have seen the emergence of social silos, with multiple social computing platforms popping up across the enterprise. There might be a corporate platform for employee profiles and newsfeeds and separate platforms arising from CRM applications or even ERP applications that come with social functionality right out of the box. These social silos now need to be integrated, at least to some extent, to avoid undermining the core premise of social computing, which is that productivity gains can be achieved through an extensive and connected social network. Silos work against the necessary connectedness.

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