Megatrends and monster mash-ups Featured

7:00pm EDT December 26, 2007

The New Year is going to be fast, furious and painful for companies that blink. Why? The key components are finally lining up to create the infrastructure for making a top-to-bottom transformation of our business world.

“The emerging megatrend for businesses to meet global competition is to become far more agile and much faster to drive more value to their customers,” says Bill Russell, executive vice president of Allegient. “To accomplish this, companies will have to tie their business goals, as they relate to serving customers, all the way through the enterprise.”

Smart Business spoke to Russell about how to tap the solutions, the processes, the people and the technologies that are emerging to support this new era of speed and agility.

How will business solutions impact the emerging megatrend?

We’re going to see a wave of new solutions this year. They’ll be customer-centric and aimed at generating new revenue or solving a problem or need. It’s not going to be about saving money or cutting costs. You can’t shrink your way to prosperity. It’s going to be around innovation — with a huge emphasis on fast delivery and driving more value to customers. A second mega-area of solutions is going to orient around business process efficiency. That efficiency is going to come from a business being able to tell itself how its processes are operating (i.e. process intelligence) and changing them for optimization.

Finally, a whole host of solutions are going to focus around making knowledge workers more effective or productive in collaborating on solutions, including how to be more creative and how to provide faster answers to business opportunities.

How are processes changing to support this?

Certainly, faster collaborative solutions development is going to occur. We’re going to see new techniques, with more new agile methods and new smaller-scale proof of concepts and prototypes, and types of initiatives that will drive business value faster into the end-user set. Frankly, to manage all of that, we’re going to see big trends around portfolio management, different types of initiatives and how to manage those initiatives, in terms of ensuring that you are executing the highest priority, the greatest speed and the most value.

Will we have to change the way we work?

In this area, the major trend picking up speed is tightening the collaboration between the business and IT sides through new roles to support the more agile processes. You can almost predict the beginning of the disappearance of the separation between business and IT. People have always talked about the business and IT areas within their organization, but really, there is no reason for that. We should be talking about business needs and business solutions that happen to have a set of roles — some from the business side and some from the technical side. Some of the emerging roles will include process engineers, account managers, business integrators, information architects and composite solution architects.

What is being demanded from technology?

Remember, we’re talking about a complete transformation of how we’ve been doing business. First, we’re clearly going to see the examination of ‘software as a service’ or SaaS. The reason for that is because of the lower risk and the speed of deployment in order to get the business value. Business process modeling and management technologies will take a big push forward this year. We’re watching the beginning of a movement toward social software, similar to MySpace, Facebook and Second Life, but for business. The buzzword emerging around this is ‘folk-sonomies,’ which are built on much more virtual, community-based technology platforms to support this more agile, faster and collaborative environment we’re discussing. Portals and collaboration software also are sure to see much greater deployment and emphasis this year. Finally, the services-oriented architecture/composite application technologies will be taking a lot more traction in 2008 because they support mash-ups, which are going to be hot.

What are mash-ups?

Mash-ups bring different information from different sources together and create something new for the value of a customer, executive or knowledge worker. For example, when you Google an address and get a map, you also get other data coming from street addresses and related information. It all gets mashed up before you see it to give you a richer consumer experience. In a business context, I might take data from a manufacturing system about what product has been produced, marry it to the customer data from my customer relationship system, and then I might want to look at my warranty database to see if there were any problems with the product. All of that is mashed up before I see it and before I go in to visit my customer. It’s going to include a portal presentation layer that allows me to request that mash-up in a really snazzy user interface.

BILL RUSSELL is executive vice president of Allegient in Indianapolis. Reach him at or (317) 564-5701.