Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Three Pillars of the Next Generation Enterprise Solutions

Cloud computing, Mobile, Social networking, Big data, Consumerization, Y generation, and a couple of others, are accelerating their pace into the very core of the enterprise world. And after ruling for over twenty years, the Client/Server era is slowly reaching its end.

When trying to imagine the next enterprise software generation we typically base our predictions on the emerging technological capabilities. I took a different approach and focused on the purpose and the needs that these technologies can serve. 

The Three Pillars are Work, Personal and Social

We are living and interacting across three different pillars or worlds. They include our work and company pillar, the very personal private world, and various social circles of friends, family and acquaintance. These three pillars are blurring, and the best way to illustrate it is by just looking at our smartphone. The same calendar space has work related meetings together with family events and personal doctor appointments. Also the contact list includes co-workers info together with friends and family.

Each one of these three pillars is also marking a major inflection point, as nicely demonstrated by the Time magazine person of the year nomination. The Time magazine person of 1982 was the personal computer, and in 2010 it was Mark Zuckerberg for the social revolution. And if we go really back to 1960 some of the nominated 'American Scientists' were the founding fathers of computing which mainly served work related purposes. 

I used these three pillars to reflect on the first two generations of enterprise software (Mainframe and Client/Server), and then tried to extrapolate to determine the next generation, and identify the type of players that will have major influence on shaping it. It’s not a science, but could shed some light…

Client/Server architecture – adding personal pillar to the work pillar

The first generation of software solutions started in the 60’s with mainframe and later also mini computers. They were focused on providing solutions for work i.e. companies and organizations.

Personal computing commenced in the late 70’s. It took the business world about a decade and ‘Fat client’,  ‘Thin client’ debates to embed its capabilities into enterprise class client/server architecture.

Within its inherent limitations Client/server managed to optimize the two pillars i.e. work and personal. It provided better usability and increased level of personal control, along with enterprise governance and resource sharing. Solutions that were designed for Client/Server architecture delivered an improved user experience in a significantly lower overall cost.

Social business architecture – adding social and strengthening personal

There seems to be a common agreement that social business architecture is the next enterprise software generation, enabled by cloud computing, but there is no agreement about what is it. So here is my definition.

Next generation enterprise solutions should start by focusing on providing an end-to-end personal solution for the individual professional. The solution will allow maintaining private information and be owned by the person and not his company. It will seamlessly leverage company resources and adhere to work’s governance practices, while being entertained and helped by the social circles.

Let’s take an engineer that is in the Cloud computing business, working on a couple of projects at her company. At work she collaborates with her co-workers, and reports time and status. She also keeps private notes related to her projects, cloud computing and others.  She sometime chat with her college friends about cloud computing topics, and other stuff. She needs a solution that will place her in the center of the three pillars, and let her seamlessly switch among pillars and get information independent of the pillars.

Some advanced enterprise solutions are starting to shift toward people centered solutions. At this stage it is in the center of the company circle, surrounded by company boundaries. It is definitely a move in the right direction, but for a true social business solution, the person should be in the middle of the three pillars of WorkPersonal and Social.

The main chalenge is the fine tuning of the three pillars to reach the right balance. It is expected to take longer than shaping client/server and be more difficult to reach.

Solutions for business professionals will seed the enterprise social business

Since the next generation solutions will be truly person centric, solutions that focus on individual business professionals are expected to play a major role.  It includes solutions and companies like: Evernote, Dropbox and in the content and storage management, Tripit (acquired by Concur) and Worldmate in travel management, Expensify in expense management, Asana, Basecamp and Manymoon (acquired by in the project management space, and more.

These new breed of apps, powered by cloud computing, let their users store private information, while allowing a secure sharing of information with selected people and groups, from their work or social circles. They can natively leverage the existing social networking like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and some can even be integrated to the private social business environments managed by their companies.

Summary and credit

There were two major generations of computing architecture since its inception. The first one was Mainframe focusing on solutions for work. The second generation Client/Server developed when the two worlds of work and personal collided.

We are now in the verge of the third computing generation that will emerge when the three worlds of workpersonal and social will collide. Personal apps like Evernote and Dropbox that are aimed at business professionals will play a major role.

The following is based on numerous discussions Oren Ryngler and I had.

...and Seinfeld's view

Kramer: 'Jerry, don't you see? This world here, this is George's sanctuary. If Susan comes into contact with this world, his worlds collide. You know what happens then?'

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