Future of Productivity Software Part 1: The Tortoise and the Hare

Blog post contributed by Chris Marsh, Research Director - Workforce Productivity & Compliance

As the tale goes, the hare races off leaving the tortoise in its tracks, only to slow down and allow the tortoise to triumph. The fable reminds me of the productivity software category. Growing innovation across collaboration, content and work management, workspaces, in assert creation tools and other segments has made a once dull category exciting again. It has heralded new rising stars to become the new incumbents, and some have even pushed the ‘best of breed will determine the future of IT’ narrative as part of the excitement. The narrative typically states that a few winners across the product categories emerge and play nicely with each other to serve future enterprise needs. We think this is premature:

  • With enterprises scrambling to give effect to their digital transformations, the term ‘best of breed’ has in fact been the path of least resistance – a better way to doing something everyone already understands. In this instance, a better way to manage content collaborate or provide access to applications.
  • The opportunity to disrupt within their segment to drive market share has downplayed the need to disrupt beyond their segment to position for the future of work that will look very different from the way it does now.
  • These vendors risk being the hare in the fable by not understanding the tortoise. The “tortoise” isn’t the legacy players, but rather is the vendors tooling the proverbial category “white space” that best of breed vendors have left wide open.
Existing product segments largely reflect the symbiosis of legacy tools, ways of organizing and existing buyers and buying rationales that must now be recast due to the imperative need to digitally transform. Productivity software will, as a result, have more opportunities to evolve from intersections across the category, segments catalyzed by new technologies such as AI and machine learning, than it will from innovations within each alone. Significant white space is defined by bringing together the reach across the spectrum of work scenarios with the ability to manage them with sophistication, whereas most tooling has historically traded off one for the other. We at 451 Research believe this white space will be inhabited by a new archetype software we term the ‘Workforce Intelligence Platform’ (WIP).

Catalyzed by intelligence, hybrid integration, decentralized workflow automation and likely the growing attention from the mega caps the WIP will have a strong gravitational pull on the entire category. This doesn’t have to imply the pendulum swings to all-in-one solutions, the way we currently conceptualize the WIP entertains several enablers of what we term transversal WorkOps, the subject of the second blog in this series. The inference is, though, that where we are now – legacy vendors disrupted by better alternatives within the same segment – just marks the beginning of even more innovation yet to come.

In the “The Future of Productivity Software” Technology & Business Insight (TBI) report, we:

  • Highlight the chronic challenges enterprises face with their workforce productivity, which the SaaS and best of breed explosion hasn’t done much to alleviate.
  • Provide a schema showing value across the tooling pyramid is inverting.
  • Propose a technical architecture for the WIP, map the positions of each productivity software segment relative to the white space it inhabits and outline in detail the directional travel of each towards or away from that space.
We will continue to discuss the future of productivity software and the corresponding TBI report in a three-part series. In the next blog, we will outline what we call “new WorkOps behaviors” that will support the emergence of what we term the ‘liquid enterprise’ – new digital native businesses, that will define future business competitiveness.
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Webinar - The Age of Consumption: HCTS 2018 Q&A

451 Research’s 14th annual Hosting & Cloud Transformation Summit (HCTS) in Las Vegas from September 24-26 is coming up fast! HCTS welcomes executives in the hosting, cloud, datacenter and managed services sectors to hear timely, actionable insight into the competitive dynamics of innovation from 451 Research analyst talent and guest speakers including AWS, Microsoft, Huawei, ING, DH Capital and more. In this webinar, we will be discussing what to expect from this year’s Summit, some highlights from previous years and asking about upcoming sessions with three 451 Research Vice Presidents who will be taking the main stage at HCTS: Kelly Morgan, Melanie Posey and Al Sadowski. Join this Q&A webinar to learn about:
  • What is the Age of Consumption and what should we expect to see from it?
  • Why should organizations have a strong business-IT alignment when moving forward with a Digital Transformation strategy?
  • What, if any, key shifts are happening in the multi-tenant datacenter space as a result of the age of consumption?
  • Why are hyperscalers both a friend AND foe to other service providers?
The webinar will be held August 21, 2018, at 2:00 pm ET. Register to attend below. 
 
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Prepping for HCTS – Q&A with Research Vice President Melanie Posey

Continuing with our “Prepping for HCTS – Q&A” series, I took a minute to catch up with Research Vice President Melanie Posey. Melanie has spoken at HCTS a number of times and we look forward to her taking the stage once again.

Q: What did you discuss last year?

A: Last year I talked about how important it is for service providers to “partner for success” in the digital era.

Q: What was your biggest take away from last year’s HCTS?

A: My biggest takeaway from HCTS last year was that cloud is now mainstream IT – it’s time for service providers to start thinking about how they work with the hyperscale providers going forward and the types of 1+1=3 value propositions will be most compelling to customers.

Q: What will you be discussing in this session?

A: We’ll be discussing the ways in which the dynamics of enterprise IT will evolve in an era where public clouds are the increasingly dominant IT platform. This session will also look at the changes in buying behavior, skills requirements, and IT organizational structure being brought about by the imperatives of digital transformation.

Q: Why should HCTS attendees find this session valuable/what can they hope to gain? Figure 1
A: According to VoTE survey respondents, 86% of organizations agree that digital technology has a significant or moderate impact on their industries, but only 39% have formal strategies in place to mitigate the impact of it (Figure 1). In this session, attendees will get a glimpse of what lies ahead in the “post-cloud” digital transformation-focused future: where partnering is a requirement (and not an option) and where IT vendors’ success depends largely on their ability to help customers navigate the design, implementation, and operations management challenges in the journey toward business-centric IT modernization.

Q: Why are you excited to attend this year’s HCTS? 

A: I’m excited about HCTS this year because we’re at a turning point in the IT industry. As business and IT become ever more aligned, we’re seeing a democratization of IT within organizations. We have our ideas on how this is changing things in the IT space – we’re interested in hearing about attendees’ experiences, too!

Join Melanie at HCTS 2018 to hear her discuss the future of enterprise IT in a public cloud dominate world. HCTS will be held at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, September 24-26. Keep an eye out for the other posts in our ongoing series, including the previous Q&A with Matt Aslett.  

Figure 1 is from Voice of the Enterprise (VoTE) – Digital Pulse: Budgets & Outlook 2017

 

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The Trouble with Cloud “Repatriation”

Key analysts: Liam Eagle - Research Manager, Voice of the Enterprise: Cloud, Hosting & Managed Services, and Melanie Posey - Research Vice President and General Manager, Voice of the Enterprise

We have all known someone who regretted getting a tattoo. A seemingly permanent choice they loved ten years ago, is now covered up or removed. But who knows where they will be in another 10 years. In a nutshell, this analogy describes the phenomenon many IT analysts called “cloud repatriation” – the shift of workloads from public cloud to local infrastructure environments.

We have also called this phenomenon “cloud repatriation,” though not without some internal healthy debates about the validity of the phrase (yes – it rivaled the infamous “what color is the dress” debate for us). The debate focused on the word “repatriation” and how it suggests a transition to a permanent state of being. That doesn’t accurately describe an enterprise’s relationship with IT infrastructure. Much like our acquaintance full of tattoo regret, the priorities, needs and sometimes the entire business model of an enterprise changes and makes that new infrastructure less effective or appropriate than it was first deployed.
The Trouble with Cloud Repatriation fig 1The term “repatriation” takes a lot for granted. It assumes a permanent outcome or “permanent residency,” if you will. It assumes an improvement of some kind. And it assumes some failure to deliver on the part of public cloud. But what about the rolling back, for instance, of a failed cloud migration project? Is that repatriation? What if they try again in a few months?

In our Voice of the Enterprise (VoTE) Cloud Transformation, Organizational Dynamics 2017 survey, 34% of respondents said they had moved their workloads from a public cloud to a private environment (cloud or otherwise). Notably, when we asked them to cite their reasons for the move, many of those matched the reasons we know businesses ultimately decide to shift to the public cloud in the first place: performance/availability issues, high cost, latency issues, security and more.
The Trouble with Cloud Repatriation fig 2
These reasons appeared in our survey again when we asked respondents about their reasons for using multiple infrastructure environments to operate individual workloads. Forty-seven (47%) percent of them said improving performance/availability was one of the main reasons for leveraging multiple infrastructure environments.

What does this mean? For us at 451 Research, we believe this phenomenon we are all hinting at isn’t a repatriation or a reverse migration, but a cloud evolution. Our data shows more businesses see the value of a hybrid IT strategy. In fact, 58% of VotE survey respondents said that they are “moving toward a hybrid IT environment that leverages both on-premises systems and off-premises cloud/hosted resources in an integrated fashion.” Hybrid IT does offer the opportunity to build a framework for workload portability and mobility to match the ever-changing needs (or tastes, looking back at the tattoo analogy) of an organization. While this strategy isn’t the solution for all IT organizations, it is true that VMs are rarely stagnant because the best execution venue (our term for “home”) changes based on the available resources and shifting requirements around issues like performance, security and availability.

So, here is our problem: how will we rename cloud repatriation? We have played with many ideas like workload (re)balancing and liquid workloads (no, we are not suggesting you water your workload like a plant – water and electronics still do not mix), but those don’t sit well with us either. Tweet us your ideas for a new term, one that fits the "fluid" nature of the best execution venue for workloads and hybrid IT. 

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Prepping for HCTS – Q&A with Research Vice President Matt Aslett

Next up in our “Prepping for HCTS – Q&A” series, I spoke with Research Vice President Matt Aslett. Matt has overall responsibility for the data platforms and analytics coverage and he last presented at HCTS in 2013.

Q: What will you be discussing in this session?

A: Our research shows that artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are among the highest priorities for enterprises and service providers as they seek to deliver data-driven efficiencies and competitive advantage – 29% of survey respondents ranked ML/AI as a priority for 2018 and 12% of respondents currently use these technologies (See Figure 1).Vote digital pulse 2017 Matt QA
AI and ML fundamentally change the relationship between humans and computers, because tasks thought previously beyond computers – and thus solely the preserve of humans – are rapidly becoming possible using software. In fact, 47% of survey respondents say they plan to use AI and machine learning within the next two years. I’ll be talking about 451’s perspective on AI and ML, the potential they have to drive significant long-term change, as well as the likely immediate impact on infrastructure and service provision in particular.

Q: Why should HCTS attendees find this session valuable/what can they hope to gain?

A: 451 Research believes that artificial intelligence is set to revolutionize not only the software industry, but also the way we live, work, learn and play. And yet, while the long-term implications of AI are truly revolutionary, the initial improvements are likely to appear relatively routine and narrow. This dichotomy has the potential to create disillusionment but is par for the course in terms of the history of technological revolution.

Humanity’s ability to perceive the future is often limited by our current reality and a tendency to simultaneously over-estimate short-term gains while underestimating long-term implications. Within this context, we’ll discuss some of the anticipated benefits of AI and machine learning for infrastructure and service provision in particular: from automating IT service desks to ensuring data centers are run as efficiently as possible to capacity forecasting. The potential to apply these technologies is so vast that the challenge can be knowing where to deploy resources first. As such, we’ll also provide a practical guide to early AI use-cases and examples, 451 Research’s five-step process for success with machine learning and cover key questions such as:
  • Why now for AI and machine learning and how to get started?
  • How and AI and ML help me run my data centers more efficiently?
  • How can elements of IT service provision be automated using AI and ML?

Q: Why are you excited to attend this year’s HCTS?

A: HCTS is always a great event with a mixture of interesting and educational content as well as the ability to socialize with like-minded decision-makers and thought-leaders. As usual, there’s a great agenda with interesting presentations and discussions involving both 451 Research analysts and industry luminaries. This year’s event promises to be particularly interesting given the emergence of the age on consumption, as well as the confluence of multiple industry trends, including cloud, the Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence.

To hear Matt discuss applications for AI within the enterprise, register for HCTS 2018 which will be held at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, September 24-26. Keep an eye out for the other posts in our ongoing series, including our Q&A with William Fellows.

Figure 1 from Voice of the Enterprise (VoTE) – Digital Pulse: Budgets and Outlooks 2017
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