Across the spectrum of modern corporate IT, analysts and observers are focusing on a set of transformational topics in the enterprise and on the horizon. Most IT prognosticators are particularly drawn to areas of cloud computing, mobility, social media and analytics (big data and otherwise). As information managers become less tied to their desks, but take on more responsibilities with analytics and enterprise collaboration, the expectation is that individual topics will be at the center of new constructs and use cases.

At Saugatuck Technology, a research and strategy consulting firm noted for its coverage of cloud computing, the meeting of cloud, social, mobile and analytics has been organized in recent years into a strategic perspective called the “Boundary-free Enterprise.”  In the words of founder and CEO William S. McNee and VP/Distinguished Analyst Mike West, this introduces a new “Master Architecture” based on “multiple technologies and platforms that build synergies among themselves through loosely coupled and opportunistic exchanges of value.” 

How does the Master Architecture you are now talking about fit the context of what you call a Boundary-free Enterprise?

McNee: We started using this terminology in 2008 in a custom piece of research we developed on behalf of one of our clients. We were beginning to see a unifying vision for how technology was evolving, but likewise how businesses were evolving. What’s been happening is that we are moving beyond architectures that are primarily dominated by a single technology. Think about the history:, mainframes, minis, personal computers, Internet and client/server. Today’s architecture is and will continue to be dominated by a handful of technologies including cloud, mobile, social, and advanced analytics. We’re combining those four together and calling it CMSA [cloud, mobile, social, data analytics]. Wrapping all of them are all the technologies associated with integration, primarily data integration but also process integration. It’s the synergies between these technologies that really help enable this new vision of the Boundary-free Enterprise.

West: The critical piece, as Bill pointed out, is not just cloud, mobile, social and data analytics, but it’ s the use of these things in combination and through integration with on premise data assets that yields the value proposition. Some research organizations focus on just mobile or just social or just analytics and drill down deeply. But for the first time we can say this is not about a single technology platform. It is about a confluence, a combination and synergy of capabilities and platforms creating a kind of loosely coupled Master Architecture.

You’re talking about a distributed enterprise tapping operationally into these four things to manage a working environment?

West: Let me offer one scenario as an example. There has been a lot of talk about how mobile payments will replace credit cards and cash as a way for customers to get to goods and services. We believe that is true and that predictions may be understated once wireless infrastructure is in place and the banks get companies to realize how they can monetize this. You realize that if you hang onto credit cards forever you’ll eventually be on the losing side, so you have to jump on the mobile payments idea. But you enable that with the totality of what we call the Boundary-free Enterprise. You take a consumer using a mobile device, he’s alerted to a bargain and he’s delighted to make his purchase seamlessly and quickly. He tweets about the experience. In the enterprise, the purchase data has been captured, it is integrated and correlated with social data and campaign advertising data. You mass the data in the cloud and apply analytics, share with others in a collaboration format in the advertising and marketing departments and formulate plans based on the data they analyzed for the next advertising campaign. They alert their authorized executive who is traveling on business and message the new advertising campaign based on the data that has been acquired and the analysis. The executive authorizes the new ad campaign.

What you see is that mobile payments capability is exciting in itself, but it’s just one thread in a complex stream of interactions where advertisers and marketers make use of the purchase and social net data, tweak and target an ad campaign and get it approved. You’re not bound by desks or in-house systems; you can interact directly with the aggregation of consumer data and make hay on the fact that all of this can come together thanks to this emerging Master Architecture.

In another sense, we fought the war a decade ago over ERP platforms and modules for things like finance and CRM. Now it feels more about apps and tools for these different modalities of mobile and cloud, etc.

McNee: It goes beyond yesterday’s view of enabling technologies and looks at how these next-gen technologies interrelate. Rather than back office and front office technologies, it is about synergies. And at the same time, it’s less about looking at this from IT or techie point of view and more about how this new master architecture is enabling businesses to do things they could never do before and often without IT even being present. We’re not talking about an IT professional sitting in some dark room helping to support a back office process. We’re talking about business professionals or even consumers facilitating a new way of creating value.

West: In the past a single platform could dominate a computing era, but that’s no longer the case. You won’t see a Microsoft or HP or Oracle dominating because the value is in combinations and value exchange between mobile and social, data analytics and collaboration, facilitated by integration.

We have seen a traditional enterprise software platform provider, SAP, planning for cloud, mobile and data analytics in acquisitions like SuccessFactors, Sybase and Business Objects. Would you expect a future cycle of acquisitions also as things continue to mature?

West: Different vendors will continue to build or add to their stack, but vendors that rise and fall based upon a proprietary stack will be losers. The ones that will win will know openness and synergy is how they gain market share and create value for customers. What the customers will want is the best of Salesforce with the best of SAP with the best of Oracle and HP, and it will be cost-effective to do so. It was not possible in the past to do that. That’s especially so because the interfaces are generalized and integration is broadly capable through the cloud.

McNee: I’m not sure I have this fully baked, but one scenario might be that you have 10 or a dozen standard IS platforms of significance in the future that are open to plug into value-added capabilities. And it’s going to be mix and match at the platform level and infrastructure level. At a broader level, it’s a palette of capabilities and that helps create new business value, not a single vendor or single stack architecture.

Would you include a notion of open frameworks or open source as core to the non-proprietary movement?

West: Open interfaces and frameworks are important and you should also take a look at the breadth of ability you can get from a provider like Boomi or Cast Iron [Systems] or Informatica or Pervasive [Software]. They all have gadgets that allow you to connect multiple solutions, they monitor and manage changes in the APIs for you. They have an enormous value proposition that an enterprise wouldn’t likely try for itself on a cost/benefit basis.  Beyond open interfaces you’d have to build and maintain yourself, also take a good look at providers of tool kits and APIs and gadgets. There are connecting devices that allow you to integrate with your SAP on premise and manage the changes in the APIs and functional changes as the product sets evolve.

So, it’s out with the old modularity and in with the new? It sounds like IT is going to remain busy for a good long while.

McNee: If you think about the core missions of IT and its purview, a lot of the pre-cloud world was about the standardization of technologies and providers. The current transitory world we’re in is about standardization of providers and services. In the Boundary-free Enterprise that is emerging, it is around standardization of interfaces given the intersections of all these technologies and the need for interoperability and bringing technology to bear to create value.

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