Enterprise Technology Disruption: It’s not the Cloud, Stupid… | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Today’s conversations and research around technology disruption and the causes invariably focus on cloud services, and rightly so. Be it infrastructure, software, or any other facet of technology consumption or development, cloud services have had, and will continue to have, the most disruptive impact. The disruption discussion also includes the impact of mobility, next-generation analytics, and the growing importance of software to control the enterprise.

This is leaving enterprise technology providers in a state of amazement and numbness. They are investing all their energy in responding to these disruptive trends. However, there are equally important dimensions they need to understand. Some of these include:

  1. Where is the talent? How many conventional enterprise technology providers are the first choice of employees these days? They themselves believe, very few. The mindboggling (and questionable) valuation of companies such as Pinterest, Uber, and WhatsApp, and the flood of consumer technology start-ups/niche firms (reminders of 2000?), are pushing the technology talent toward these smaller companies. Job seekers now believe that all the action and fun are in consumer technology. Even within the enterprise technology segment, new candidates and existing talent are focusing on new and innovative firms (e.g., Alteryx, Coupa, Dropbox, Palantir, Tableau, Workday) or their own start-up more than on traditional vendors. Given that technology is as good as the people who innovate it, this is a serious threat for most enterprise technology providers.

  2. Where is the plan? Enterprise technology providers take pride in their exhaustive business case modelling and time to market planning. These cases normally create a multiyear plan and staggered investments across the timeline. However, given that technology disruption is reducing the cycle of innovation and time to market, these time and tested strategies are increasingly becoming irrelevant. Do these technology providers have sufficient internal strength, processes, and willingness to jettison the age-old model of investment planning and be in sync with the shortening technology cycle?

  3. Why so many competitors? The huge entry barriers incumbent technology providers created for newer players are crumbling in the face of technology disruption. Enterprise buyers, driven by internal and external factors, have become more receptive of nimbler and more innovative technology companies than in the past. Moreover, new-age technology providers now better understand the requirements of an “enterprise grade product.” More so, the enterprises’ requirements are themselves undergoing significant changes that suit these new-age technology firms, such as agility over control, and first to market rather than best to the market.

  4. Who is the competition? IBM is fighting retailer Amazon for dominance in cloud services, Oracle is fighting smaller MongoDB and Postgres for the database market, Teradata is fighting Cloudera for next generation analytics, and so on. While the technology world has been replete with similar David versus Goliath stories seemingly since time immemorial, their occurrence and impact have become more severe in the past couple of years.

The enterprise technology providers are responding by leveraging their tried and true methods of acquisition, (e.g., IBM/SoftLayer, VMware/AirWatch, Tibco/Jaspersoft,) and partnering with nimbler firms (e.g., SAP, Microsoft, and IBM partnering with Hortonworks and Cloudera for Hadoop, HP partnering with OpenStack for cloud services, and Oracle partnering with NetSuite for SaaS.)

The big challenge these enterprise technology providers now have is to strategize based on the type of competition. In earlier times, they knew their competitors and how they would react, and they were comfortable in their planning meetings. However, now the environment has changed. No one knows who and where the next competition is coming from (airline industry versus video conferencing, anyone?)

While there are likely numerous other dimensions shaping the technology market today, they are tough to foresee. This makes enterprises’ and technology providers’ task of planning for their technology roadmap almost impossible.

What is the best way to move ahead? Should enterprises and providers stop their technology planning cycles and become real time planners? Should they wait it out for the disruption smoke to clear? Should they continue with their existing strategies?

If you are an enterprise technology provider or a customer trying to make sense of this juggernaut, please do share your perspectives with me at [email protected].

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