As outlined in Technology Management In The Age Of The Customer, the age of the customer will fundamentally change how app-dev groups operate and interact with business leaders. This post is intended to open a discussion around the likely changes that the age of the customer will bring in the next few to several years — a reasonable planning window. I’ve seen a fair amount of change in this industry. As background, my tenure in the IT industry dates back to 1982, when at the tender age of 25, I left the Cambridge Institue for Computer Programming with a full head of hair and a fire in my belly to do great (programming) things. My first job as a batch programmer for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health lasted long enough to land my next job at Boston University, where I wrote batch and online Natural/Adabas code for a few years. In 1985, I joined Cullinet Software in Westwood, Mass. to develop commercial ERP applications in ADSO/IDMS (before the “ERP” acronym even existed). Online, fully integrated manufacturing, HR, and financial apps based on a network DBMS — it was cutting-edge technology at the time, as were the IBM PCs that began gracing our desktops circa 1987. Ironically, today my iPhone has more power than these early XT machines.

I left Cullinet just as CA bought it in 1989 for what was my biggest professional challenge to date: Building an IT department for Arbella Mutual Insurance from the skeleton of a Kemper Insurance branch office in Quincy, Mass. Starting with no staff, hardware, or applications, the things I learned as we built the IT department were as numerous as the hours we all put in to make it happen. In April 1992, my wife, son, and I relocated to Florida, where I took a developer position at the National Council on Compensation Insurance. My team built a commercial software package using MicroFocus COBOL to distribute to insurers to run at their sites. The same codebase ran on mainframes, PCs, and Unix machines — pretty progressive at the time. As the Internet trudged from infancy toward toddlerhood, I helped NCCI launch the first Internet-based information service for the worker’s compensation industry; cutting edge then, albeit pretty ho-hum today. In the mid-1990s, I took directorship of NCCI’s Y2K program, assembling offshore/off-hours remediation in India to complement onshore/in-house testing — progressive sourcing techniques for 1995-96.

In November of 1997, with the Y2K program well in hand for NCCI, I joined Giga Information Group as an industry analyst, researching and writing best practices to help firms remediate their Y2K issues. eBusiness was firing up just as Y2K wound down, and I spent the next few years as the managing director of a research team documenting eBusiness best practices. Forrester Research acquired Giga in 2003, and the last decade seems like a blur: the eBiz boom went bust, followed by the subprime mortgage and other financial crises, followed by übertrends like social media, smartphones, tablets, and wearables — the business, cultural, and technical changes go on and on.

Fast-forward 31 years from 1982, my full head of hair is long gone and I’ve got a lot more belly to have fire in. Why the trip down memory lane? First, to establish a modicum of street cred — I’ve seen some changes in this industry, and I want that cred to give weight to this next statement: The changes that I’ve seen over the past 30 years will pale in comparison to the collective changes that the age of the customer will bring in the next several years. Forrester defines the pillars of the age of the customer as including mobile, customer experience, digital disruption, and insights from big data.

Allow me to seed this discussion with some likely changes in the hopes of generating an extended dia(b)log on the impact of the age of the customer on app-dev groups:

  1. However tight your IT budgets have been, things will get worse, except for funding for mobile and social systems of engagement.
    • Why? Firms that can’t develop mobile apps are at a huge competitive disadvantage; once they exhaust the new money, they’re coming for the rest of it.
  2. Systems of engagement will wreak havoc on systems of record norms.
    • Why? Mobile apps need access to the information in systems of record, but those systems are monolithic — cadence conflict!
  3. Application rationalization will move from “Gee, we should think about that” to “We won’t survive unless we do.”
    • Why? Portfolio complexity kills the desired systems of engagement change cadence; portfolio cost can no longer be tolerated.
  4. Beyond mobile, getting cloud and integration right are your next threats and opportunities.
    • Why? Systems of engagement scale via cloud; this will force the need for low-latency integration with systems of record.
  5. Legacy on-premises packaged applications will become extinct.
    • Why? A new class of cloud-only vendors will create business-in-a-box suites of applications that fulfill most commodity business needs, on a pay-as-you-go basis.
  6. Mature firms are under threat from . . . everywhere!
    • Why? #5 enables “frictionless enterprises” to spring up with very low barriers to entry. They can focus solely on apps that differentiate — can you?

In my opinion, the impact of these and related changes on how app-dev groups organize, tool, operate, source, and work with their marketing and product organizations will be nothing short of earth-shaking.

What do you think? What’s certain? What’s likely? What’s nonsense? What’s missing?