Hyperconnectivity: The future of business technology

Hyperconnectivity will not only support growing business technology trends in the next five years, but fundamentally change the way IT must respond.

©iStock.com/ktsimage

©iStock.com/ktsimage

I believe the key theme in business technology over the next five years will revolve around our increasing ability to become hyperconnected.

Yes, the Network of Everything and the Internet of Things (IoT) have been touted for at least a decade… But for us, here in Australia, hyperconnectivity will finally become a reality – soon. We’re traditionally fast adopters, and our connectivity is finally catching up with our desire to link everything in real time.

Three significant developments are among those that will accelerate enterprise hyperconnectivity:

  • Before 2020, the NBN will have connected the vast majority of small-to-medium businesses, enabling larger data flows across the supply chain. This will enhance the ability of larger enterprises (private or government) to digitise their own processes and communications.
  • Although 4G is relatively new, Telstra recently announced 5G for 2020. This will speed communications, not only to make mobile workers more effective, but to increase the viability of the IoT, wearables and other operational real-time systems. In early 2015, Telstra had more than 1.38m connected ‘machines’ over its mobile network, with service numbers growing at around 30% CAGR 1  - and this will only escalate.
  • The increasing ability of Australian businesses to ensure their data is both stored and replicated onshore will fuel migration to cloud computing – overcoming data sovereignty concerns and making systems and data more reliably and ubiquitously available to support the demand for real-time data analysis and reporting.

Over the next five years, enterprise IT teams will need to adapt to this new hyperconnectivity – in the way they work; the way they interact with and support the business; the types of people they employ; how they deploy, manage and integrate their service providers; and, critically, how they protect the new plethora of valuable information that will be flowing through their systems and networks.

 

1. Emergence of the Chief Data Officer

According to Gartner: “A number of newly named roles are emerging within the enterprise, including chief data officer, chief digital officer and chief analytics officer. Upon closer inspection these roles are essentially the same. They are all focused on how to leverage information for better business outcomes.” 2  

And, according to Computerworld, there will be a role in many organisations for a ‘chief IoT officer’ – and IT may not be up to the task. 3  

The function – whatever it’s called – is a massive stretch from the traditional database administrator role. The questions have moved way beyond: “Where will silos of data reside and what storage capacity do I need to purchase?” or “How do we marry fields from datasets within disparate systems?” The game-changing questions for the future are:

  • How can we optimise the data we hold and make it available in real time?
  • How can we best turn it into knowledge to learn from, support better business decision-making and create competitive advantage?
  • How could we potentially monetise information derived from our data?

Whatever the name, there is increasing demand for data expertise and control, as enterprises realise that analytics is the source of greatest value to a range of business outcomes. Whether this new responsibility lies within the business or IT will depend on how responsive the CIO and IT team is to business demands for better information.

 

2. Wearables become business wear.

In writing my previous article on what I think will actually happen in business technology during 2015, I deliberately left wearables out. However, I see strong signs they will be gaining traction during the next five years.

Recent developments indicate that wearables will become ‘tools of trade’ in increasing numbers:

  • In January 2015, Google killed off its Explorer’s program for Google Glass but it doesn’t mean Glass is dead; merely that Google now recognises its future is in business, not consumer-land. 4  
  • The Apple Watch is already showing its intention of being much more than another iPod… In March 2015, Apple showed off Salesforce apps which allow users of the CRM to access ‘glance-able’ information and be notified when an event occurs.
  • A March 2015 survey by Salesforce.com found that a third of the executives they canvassed had either implemented or were planning to start using wearables in their business. 5  

I believe that wearables will become firmly integrated within enterprise operational systems in a great number of Australian organisations, principally for occupational health and safety reasons, and to further increase work mobility and productivity. I’ve already seen some seriously compelling business examples – which I’ll be detailing in a future article.

 

3. Enterprise security will evolve.

If Big Data and Internet of Things (IoT) initiatives are to succeed (let alone exist) in the new hyperconnected world, IT teams will need to deploy an end-to-end security framework. And this, perhaps, is where they are currently best qualified to command leadership…

Security becomes ever more critical as greater areas of our working and personal lives become more digitised. As data streams from operational devices and personnel via mobile devices and wearables, and from customers via CRM and social media, its value to the business – and its competitors – increases.

And these competitors are not necessarily local; in mid-May 2015, Penn State University – which collaborates extensively with private enterprises – took its entire network offline in an attempt to eject Chinese government-sponsored hackers from accessing sensitive engineering department data. 6  

Data security will become increasingly critical as new data flows are accessed, harnessed and analysed. IT must take the lead in enforcing governance and compliance with ever-evolving enterprise and national standards and policies, by engaging new technologies and skills.

 

Adapt or die

The lesson of evolution is that we must all adapt to changing environments to survive. In a hyperconnected environment, data will be the key to survival. How we source, harvest, use, manage and protect that data will determine our viability – as an IT team or the business it serves.