Eric Norlin, organizer of Defrag, Blur and Glue Conferences and seed investor, has a good post up today about what enterprise development means in the age of big data, mobile and cloud and the coming age of convergence of these big innovation spurts.
I really recommend that you take 3 minutes to read his post for proper context but here’s the quote that summarizes his stance:
Amidst these three mega-trends [Mobile, Cloud, Big Data] sits a lynchpin. The developers know it because they’re building. The buzzword maniacs haven’t caught it yet, and they may never (we can only hope), but it’s there. That lynchpin: APIs. APIs tie together the mega-trends in a fundamental and unalterable way. APIs are the lingua franca of the new wave of enterprise development.
So, as these three mega trends (and our super top-secret, don’t tell the marketers, lynchpin) converge, we’re seeing one overriding trend: the opportunity, means and necessity for the developer (engineer, architect) to play the central role in building and rolling out new enterprise IT capabilities.
He’s right. I wanted to build on two specific repercussions or elephants in the room in this discussion around what convergence means for the enterprise developer community:
- Changing Customer Expectations: Cloud and SaaS have once again started to move the buying pendulum to a decentralized model and towards the Line of Business buyer. And whilst its way early in the enterprise setting, mobile is threatening to move the buying power even further way towards the end participant. Enterprise developers need to understand what selling and supporting into the Line of Business and appealing to the end participant means. Whilst IT might have hired a traditional analyst firm to do a feature shoot out or looked at a Quadrant, the Line Of Business will want an integrated result of cloud, big data and mobile that speaks to specific business scenarios and use cases. So if enterprise software developers were to build competing products, feature parity is price of entry. You can’t shy away from really really understanding usage models and design thresholds. That’s a big cultural shift at least for those developers who’ve been supporting IT – which includes most on and offshore SIs.
- Monetization: In my mind, each of these three technology trends (on their own) will be on the fast track to commoditization and will risk facing the same fate as did most social business software plays. The magic and the premiums will come from contextual application of this innovation and as Eric says, smart integration. Take storage for example: Dropbox as storage without document and device sync is commodity. Box.net as storage without document and device sync and collaboration is commodity. Apple’s iCloud as storage without ubiquitous local and iTunes media sync across devices is commodity. And Google Drive (as discussed here in Ben Kepes’ CloudU community) is also a commodity business not worth getting into had it not been for Google’s services such as Google Apps, Piccasa, and its media and unified communication capabilities under the Google Plus brand. The premiums from big data, mobile access and cloud comes from a) dynamically assembled media and content, and interpreted data in the cloud, b) available wherever you need to consume and / or collaborate and c) insanely focused and simple interfaces to complex backends. That’s what enterprise developers are looking at if they really want to be on the money making side of these innovations.
These are the elephants as I see it.
Side Note/Disclaimer: Eric puts on mind-bending summits (he calls them conferences but I keep telling him that that doesn’t do justice to the content he produces). I’ve been an advisor to Defrag and I’ve been privileged to keynote Defrag before and will be doing so again, later this year. But this is about Glue.