Top-trend stories are different from top-news stories. The best trend is one that is little noticed at the time but has a big effect later on. Few people were betting that Google could become more than a really cool search engine when it was formed seven years ago, but look what happened. Here are some of my picks of technology trends, with an emphasis on enterprise technology, that either began or picked up speed in 2005.
The next step for Google, et al. Google, Yahoo and Skype, among others, built big companies using proprietary technology running on top of the open Internet. This was a great idea, as it allowed these companies to concentrate on building world-spanning applications without the cost of building a world-spanning network. But now, with Google, Microsoft and Yahoo all matching one another feature for feature, its hard to differentiate when your application doesnt differ all that much from that of your competitors.
As this year ends, I have seen the emergence of those proprietary technologies being opened. A prime example was Amazon.com opening its Alexa search engines to developers. Even Google, with all its billions, cant hire all the developers it needs to stay ahead of the game. The next round of new Internet applications will be from developers working on newly opened technologies running on top of the Internet.
The next generation of outsourcing. Keep an eye on GM. The automaker is having trouble competing in the worldwide automotive market but is still a leader in technology usage and deployment. Under CIO Ralph Szygenda, GM is creating an outsourcing model based on global reach, standards and forcing cooperation among competing vendors. Vendors that once competed on differentiation will now compete on their ability to work within a cooperative environment.
The next level of tech management. Your employees are blogging about your company. Your customers are blogging about your company. Your competitors are also blogging. A major story that could affect your companys brand and reputation could be out on the Web gathering force and you dont even know about it. What is your role as a technology manager in this environment?
You need to be comfortable with the search and reporting tools you can offer to senior managers as an early-warning system. The Sony fiasco with digital rights management is only one example of a technology plan skewered in the blogging world before Sony management knew what was happening. You have to develop the technical ability to not only look outward from your company but also be able to assess what is happening out on the wild, wild Web.
Disconnecting content from your traditional platforms. Television executives are ready to start downloading TV shows onto iPods. Microsoft is ready to start scrambling along with Google for revenues that were once the exclusive part of the media business segment.
Apple may become the kingmaker of the music world. Where the role of the CIO was once to integrate business and technology, the new role calls for a CIO who can determine when to pull apart the traditional platforms. Where does your company make its money? Can those moneymaking activities be divorced from the platforms where they now reside? In 2005, the trend was to take apart content and platform.
Managing your entire company. In 2005, we saw electricity costs rise; hurricanes ravage sections of the United States; and oil, heating and cooling costs reach new heights.
Companies are shifting their focus from the total cost of ownership to the total cost of the company. Executives are looking to their technology leaders to tie in systems (such as electrical, heating and cooling) that were not previously part of the technology infrastructure. Measuring, monitoring and improving the overall company operations began in 2005 but is a trend that will certainly continue in 2006.
Editor in Chief Eric Lundquist can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.