Software is Everywhere, Thanks to the Empowered Employee
It’s no secret that I am a fan of the era of the empowered employee. Ever since I was introduced to the concept in 2010 at a Forrester conference, I’ve supported the notion that the groundswell of employee innovation was an important milestone and an imperative part of social business, now and as it evolves. So when a copy of Forrester’s new report, To Thrive in the Empowered Era You’ll Need Software, Software Everywhere, landed in my inbox, I was excited to read through it.

An Empowered Future

Curled up with a glass of wine and soft overhead lighting (How do YOU read Forrester research?), I began to pore through the report with unabashed enthusiasm. It did not disappoint. Even the executive summary was exciting.

The empowered era will bring fundamental change to our global ecosystem through the 2010s and well into the 2020s. During this period of change, software will be everywhere and part of nearly everything -- the glue that binds everything together. Your job has never been more important nor in more flux. Software is your business, and how you help your firm develop and deliver software will help fuel and sustain competitive advantage."

They had me at global ecosystem. After their whirlwind summaries of the social and cultural impact that Arab Springs and disruptive technologies have had, Phil Murphy (with Kyle McNabb, Dave West, John R. Rymer, and Alissa Anderson) had us face the music, literally.

It’s not ever yday that a research report highlights songs by Lennon, REM and Bachman-Turner Overdrive to drive home its point, but this isn’t just any report. No, Forrester asks us to set aside conventional predictions to consider what Forrester expects the 2020s to look like.

In the Year 2020

  • Virtually everything will be programmable and interactive with the environment around it.
  • We will no longer carry cash or car keys -- our software-fueled minimalist smart device will connect us to our banks, our cars, our multipurpose entertainment centers and our workplace.
  • IBM’s Watson will live in our pocket, or at least, within each of our handheld devices, capable of changing remote field operations and logistics and rendering house calls the most practical and affordable primary care healthcare option.
  • Passwords be damned -- advancements in nanotechnology and biometric systems will combine with software to uniquely identify you.

In other words, 2020 is going to be AWESOME.

But that’s not all. In 8 years, cloud and mobility will be implied. Big data will continue to grow, but will occupy much less space. And personal data will be truly anonymous, thanks to data anonymization and re-identification.

The Future is Ours, If We Plan For Change

Of course, even Forrester isn’t really sure that any of this is certain to happen. But, what it does know is that software and data figure heavily into the new challenges, and opportunities that arise as we enter the 2020s that we can no longer afford to regard software, as the researcher put it,

as a back-office, automation, or support function. Software fuels business disruption today, and it will drive your future competitive advantage. You cannot treat software development as a commodity; you must treat it as a competency."

These software competencies will not just change how we work, but how we buy. Forrester predicts that software development will give birth to computing cartels -- massive, global firms with the capabilities to serve your needs. Cartels will include some of the biggest names we know now --Amazon, Cisco, Google, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle -- as well as smaller and newer competitors and they will encourage global industry and data standards to emerge from centralization.

As a result, they behoove us to pay attention to and embrace the fusion of business and technology, as well as to continually think outside the box to use information in new and creative ways that will outpace the field. Perhaps most important, the empowered employee, as we know them today, will continue to evolve over time, requiring us all to reinvent ourselves, our business and our plans every few years.