When Phil Simon asked me to write the Foreword to his new book, The Next Wave of Technologies: Opportunities in Chaos, I wasn’t sure it would be my cup of tea. After all, did we really want to proselytize the view that new technologies would beget chaos? Our existing technologies do a nice job of that already, thank you very much. So I read the book. Then I said yes.
I said yes because I thought the topics were provocative. In addition to Phil’s own chapters, which focus on how technology can set companies apart, his contributors have established the standards for their respective topics. Amy Wohl has written the definitive summary of Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions (Chapter 6); Dalton Cervo does a thorough survey on Master Data Management (MDM)—making the hard-won case that MDM is indeed a business solution (Chapter 12); Jay Miletsky provides a great analysis of both the benefits and risks of the use of social media (Chapter 9); and Michael Krigsman explains that, even as we learn how to adopt these new solutions, there are nevertheless also new ways to fail (Chapter 18).
Notwithstanding other chapters on sustainability, agile development, the mobile enterprise, and open source, Phil’s book is far from a compendium of technology breakthroughs courtesy of the last decade. Interwoven throughout this tapestry of technology is the golden thread of business value. Implicit in each chapter is the assumption that technology-in-a-vacuum is a bust. There must be business problems that these solutions can fix.
In my Foreword I resurrect the now well-worn argument, initially posed by Harvard Business Review editor Nicholas Carr, that IT doesn’t matter. I poke the argument, slap it around a little, then give it a swift upper cut. (Read the book to see if the argument bounces back.) In short Phil Simon’s book is about the application of each individual solution to real-life and often-urgent business problems. It’s about reclaiming control of your supply chain, financial systems, or innovations through Enterprise Risk Management. It’s about social media yielding improvements in collaboration and saving companies development time (and money). It’s about store employees using mobile dashboards so they can spend less time behind the register and more time with customers.
It’s about—as Tushar Hazra says in his insightful chapter on SOA—“detangling complicated, coupled…interdependent applications.” Maybe this can all be done by well-meaning IT professionals with a common set of objectives. Maybe in can be done by autodidacts on the business side. Maybe it can be done with the next wave of technologies. And maybe the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Jill also blogs at JillDyche.com.