Since ‘tis the season for reflecting on the past year and predicting the year ahead, while pondering this post my mind wandered to the reflections and predictions provided by the ghosts of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. So, I decided to let the spirit of Jacob Marley revisit my previous Enterprise CIO Forum posts to bring you the Ghosts of Enterprise Past, Present, and Future.
The Ghost of Enterprise Past
Legacy applications have a way of haunting the enterprise long after they should have been sunset. The reason that most of them do not go gentle into that good night, but instead rage against the dying of their light, is some users continue using some of the functionality they provide, as well as the data trapped in those applications, to support the enterprise’s daily business activities.
This freaky feature fracture (i.e., technology supporting business needs being splintered across new and legacy applications) leaves many IT departments overburdened with maintaining a lot of technology and data that’s not being used all that much.
The Ghost of Enterprise Past warns us that IT can’t enable the enterprise’s future if it’s stuck still supporting its past.
The Ghost of Enterprise Present
While IT was busy battling the Ghost of Enterprise Past, a familiar, but fainter, specter suddenly became empowered by the diffusion of the consumerization of IT. The rapid ascent of the cloud and mobility, spirited by service-oriented solutions that were more focused on the user experience, promised to quickly deliver only the functionality required right now to support the speed and agility requirements driving the enterprise’s business needs in the present moment.
Gifted by this New Prometheus, Shadow IT emerged from the shadows as the Ghost of Enterprise Present, with business-driven and decentralized IT solutions becoming more commonplace, as well as begrudgingly accepted by IT leaders.
All of which creates quite the IT Conundrum, forming yet another front in the war against Business-IT collaboration. Although, in the short-term, the consumerization of IT usually better services the technology needs of the enterprise, in the long-term, if it’s not integrated into a cohesive strategy, it creates a complex web of IT that entangles the enterprise much more than it enables it.
And with the enterprise becoming much more of a conceptual, rather than a physical, entity due to the cloud and mobile devices enabling us to take the enterprise with us wherever we go, the evolution of enterprise security is now facing far more daunting challenges than the external security threats we focused on in the past. This more open business environment is here to stay, and it requires a modern data security model, despite the fact that such a model could become the weakest link in enterprise security.
The Ghost of Enterprise Present asks many questions, but none more frightening than: Can the enterprise really be secured?
The Ghost of Enterprise Future
Of course, the T in IT wasn’t the only apparition previously invisible outside of the IT department to recently break through the veil in a big way. The I in IT had its own coming-out party this year also since, as many predicted, 2012 was the year of Big Data.
Although neither the I nor the T is magic, instead of sugar plums, Data Psychics and Magic Elephants appear to be dancing in everyone’s heads this holiday season. In other words, the predictive power of big data and the technological wizardry of Hadoop (as well as other NoSQL techniques) seem to be on the wish list of every enterprise for the foreseeable future.
However, despite its unquestionable potential, as its hype starts to settle down, the sobering realities of big data analytics will begin to sink in. Data’s value comes from data’s usefulness. If all we do is hoard data, then we’ll become so lost in the details that we’ll be unable to connect enough of the dots to discover meaningful patterns and convert big data into useful information that enables the enterprise to take action, make better decisions, or otherwise support its business activities.
Big data will force us to revisit information overload as we are occasionally confronted with the limitations of historical analysis, and blindsided by how our biases and preconceptions could silence the signal and amplify the noise, which will also force us to realize that data quality still matters in big data and that bigger data needs better data management.
As the Ghost of Enterprise Future, big data may haunt us with more questions than the many answers it will no doubt provide.
I realize that this post lacks the happy ending of A Christmas Carol. To paraphrase Dickens, I endeavored in this ghostly little post to raise the ghosts of a few ideas, not to put my readers out of humor with themselves, with each other, or with the season, but simply to give them thoughts to consider about how to keep the Enterprise well in the new year. Happy Holidays Everyone!