Rarely do you see forces at work in the software market that are truly disruptive. The introduction of the Internet was one. It pretty much changed how all applications are designed while introducing entire classes of new applications to the market. Even rarer is to find three disruptive forces at the same time that work together to truly change the landscape of the software industry. 

We are in the midst of such a disruption now with the triple threat of social, mobile, and cloud. Each one, taken alone, would make waves among ISVs, channels and IT. Taken together, they create a disruptive force the likes of which we haven’t seen in 15 or 20 years. Each has its own impact which acts as a multiplier for the others.

To understand the changes happening in the software market we should first look at each individually. 


The crossover of social networking methods from the consumer space to the enterprise is creating waves in how we do our work. At the moment, the impact is rather small but as social features become part of the DNA of corporate business applications, the effects will grow.

The transformation they will bring about will be in how we work, collaboratively and cooperatively. The effects on business applications will be much more than simply having to hook a social platform into our regular business applications. Instead, it will reshape the processes that these applications support and, with those, the applications themselves.


The most obvious change that mobile applications are driving is with our expectations of accessibility. We can now expect that our data and applications are available wherever we are. Knowledge workers are no longer tied to a desk or carry the weight of a laptop with them. With portable smartphones or tablets, 4G and 3G networks provide access where Wi-Fi is rarely found.

Managing that mobility is a problem but it’s only a technical problem. What mobile apps are doing, with their clean and targeted user interfaces, is changing the user expectation of what a software user experience is all about. Mobile applications pave the way for all applications to become easier to use and more suited for very specific constituents, even when they connect to a back-end, multifaceted system of record.


Cloud or SaaS applications have created new deployment models for IT. It’s much easier to field a browser based applications or even buy a SaaS application than to install desktop applications on hundreds or thousands of desktops and then manage them. Features are much easier to roll out to cloud applications and changes happen in the back-end, minimizing user disruptions.

But that’s not the real impact of cloud applications. What cloud applications have done is change the buyer for software. In the past, no matter how much line of business or departmental professionals were involved in an IT purchase, the “buyer” was ultimately an IT department. Not anymore.

Instead, non-IT professionals are buying their own software, often without the IT department’s knowledge. For the vendor, this creates a fundamental shift in whom the customer is and changes everything about how that customer is marketed to, sold to and supported. Many IT buyers will now want the service levels and features of enterprise software, but the user experience and support of the consumer software they are used to buying for themselves.

What we are looking at is the complete consumerization of the software market. Everything about applications -- design, pricing, delivery, user expectations and the buyer—is changing.

For many vendors of enterprise software, these changes are happening at the hands of a customer they don’t really know and who is impervious to the old ways of selling. For ISV channel partners, easily bypassed by cloud offerings, new ways of providing value will need to be found and a new vocabulary will need to be learned. For many IT professionals, there will be a shift in their role from a technical center to an internal, strategic business consultant. In all cases, there will be disruptive change which will require deep adaptation.

Image courtesy of hoperan (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Looking for more of Tom's thoughts? Go no further: Social Platforms Create Socially Enabled Applications