This blog post started as a follow up on my last post on how Big Data transforms the customer relation. After a while I realized that it also touch upon the question that Tim Sheedy stated in the end of the post about future IT, i.e. what is the next step after the “customer age”.

The trend that I clearly see and hear in the discussion with our clients is that companies and organizations want to become more connected and hence have the possibility to become a data driven enterprise. So instead of being customer-centric organizations becomes information-centric and starting to make use of the world of connected devices and continuous services. Here the cloud will be the enabler for cross collaboration and new innovations. This will force the enterprise to start to think about zero firewall solutions and security on the specific data itself.

How to take advantage of the cloud computing paradigm shift was outlined in my “Cloud Report Q4 2011 – How to take advantage of new cloud business opportunities using the Azure cloud ecosystem” (filed under Document on slideshare). The question for this post is what kind of organizations arises during and after the paradigm shift.

Enterprises and organizations of today operate in an increasingly complex macroeconomic and socioeconomic environment. The main challenges are to have better access to relevant market information, use its workforce skills and experiences in a better way, and establish a foundation to be able to apply High resolutions management on the global supply and value chain. Here a connected enterprise will have advantages since it can handle more flexible business models and have an ability to adapt existing strengths to long-term socioeconomic trends. Before we go into details about the connected enterprise, let us look at some examples.

When one says “connected” often the top of mind is some sensor driven solution. A good example is GE Appliance that last month introduced a home service repair program that allows technicians to connect laptops to a new generation of refrigerators. In the near future cloud-based analytics software will collect information about appliances, including such granular details as a refrigerator’s temperature readings or how often its door has been opened and closed. Using the data, the software would anticipate possible appliance problems and inform GE when a part is ready to be replaced. Ideally, should technicians be called to appliance owners’ homes in the future, they will come with proper replacement parts to eliminate additional service trips.

But to be connected is more than technology, it’s as I stated in the previous post establishment of trust with the end customer in a two-way dialog. A good example on how to embrace social technologies to drive the business is outlined by Microsoft in a new white paper.

In the paper they state that “a Dynamic Business listens and engages with customers rather than just talking at them… …Social engagement is about starting a dialog with your communities”, i.e. it is not a one way communication channel. Another significant investment from Microsoft is a cloud service with the Codename “Social Analytics”. These are good example but it takes more to be a connected enterprise than just doing it from a marketing perspective.

From both examples it is clear that a common thing is the ability to collect and act on real-time information. Forrester updated earlier this year their definition on smart computing to be:

Smart computing is a new generation of hardware, software, and network technologies that provide IT systems with real-time awareness of the real world and advanced analytics, mobile reach, and collaboration platforms to help people make more intelligent decisions about and create alternatives and actions that will optimize business processes and business balance sheet results.

So from that point of view the connected enterprise is a way to become smart.  Hence, a connected enterprise is a lot more than the introduction of sensors or analyzing Twitter feeds. It is about to be connected with the real world and in real-time make decisions that transforms and optimize the business. And the collaboration around and the enrichment of data. Many organizations handle the marketing/customer and the supplier/partner aspects in different ways. The connected enterprise will merge the customer and the supplier/partners into one common ecosystem.

So from that perspective I would like to highlight five areas for the enterprise of tomorrow

  • Collaboration through cross boarder information-rich processes
  • Engagement through mass personalization
  • Information-centric rather than user-centric
  • Social and community oriented
  • Sustainable in a bigger picture
    • Innovations that transforms the business
    • Social responsibility and Green IT
    • Workplace that attracts the brightest individuals, make them contribute in a better way

To be able to achieve this in an affordable way the organization need to be connected. Probably the journey to become connected will start from an internal perspective, i.e.

  1. Give the own employees mobile access to relevant information
  2. Engaging with the customer and start to use social analytics
  3. The introduction of cloud solutions to obtain cross collaboration with partners and suppliers
  4. The establishment of a new innovative community-oriented ecosystem

It is interesting to note that the Government sector addresses this in the opposite direction since one of the hottest topics of today is Open Government through open data initiatives. Here the private Enterprise should look into how the eGovernment tries to engage with the citizen thru open data initiative where one establishes a common platform for third party innovations. The eGovernment may learn a lot by looking how the Enterprise will handle cross boundary information processes and how social analytics is used. Hence, the Government may be able to apply Lean principles on the Government itself and thus deliver more value for less tax money.

A great challenge for organizations of today is to take information into insights and based upon these insights take the relevant actions in real-time, i.e. becoming information-centric. From that perspective the enterprise needs to rethink the architecture for the analytic and operational information flows and in a better way connect these together.

Central in the information-centric architecture will be the place and tools where data is enriched and published in a collaborative manner. Forrester refers to this as “Collaborative Content Hub” and Microsoft address this through the “DataHub” initiative. The democratization of data is central for both of these “hubs”.

The Hub will be a central part of the architecture since it will be trough this that the enterprise will engage, expose, and consume information to and from the information ecosystem of tomorrow.

In future blog posts I will comment on the other dimension and ends this blog post with a citation from Ray Ozzie:

“Let there be no doubt that the big shifts occurring over the next five years ensure that this will absolutely be a time of great opportunity for those who put past technologies & successes into perspective, and envision all the transformational value that can be offered moving forward to individuals, businesses, governments and society. It’s the dawn of a new day – the sun having now arisen on a world of continuous services and connected devices.”

Hence, the connected enterprise is the organization that transforms itself in order to embrace this new world!