Note that this article is Part 1 of a 2-part series.
The Four Forces
A few years back, Gartner began using the term “Nexus” to describe what it saw as the four IT forces that are shaping the lives of the world’s inhabitants: (1) the emergence of social platforms; (2) the proliferation of mobile devices; (3) the shift from on-premises based software, infrastructure, and platforms to cloud-native services; and (4) the explosion of data being generated along with technologies capable of processing massive datasets and identifying predictive patterns hidden within them.
Understanding the Nexus is important because it’s a precursor to understanding the term “digital business,” for which there are any number of interpretations, depending on which facet of digital business is in question. One broad definition of the overall concept states that digital business results from combining the nexus of forces with the Internet of Things (IoT), creating a world where people, businesses, and things become equal peers.
Implications of Digital Business
The implications of this view of digital business are profound: Consider a world where things, like people and businesses, will, in fact, take on the characteristics of customers. This eventuality is realized when sensors become so common that they are not only in our devices and machines but in our clothing and in the packaging of day-to-day items that we consume. Put another way, “things,” when they become depleted or worn, may actually initiate actions to replace themselves. In such a scenario, marketers, then, would need to devise ways to influence things as decision makers in billions of daily business transactions.
Furthermore, in this digital-business environment, requirements for any given app could change any number of times a day as billions of sensors monitor activity and push data to processing hubs that index it, synthesize it, and feed it back to billions of other devices running apps that need to be dynamically reconfigured based on this veritable kaleidoscope of changing business information.
What’s the ETA?
How far off is this futuristic world of digital business? An answer is hard to give but not because of a lack of hardware, bandwidth, or big ideas. Rather, the arrival of digital business is tough to predict because of inadequacies in the current technologies and methodologies used to develop software.
The Great Software Chasm
It’s been years now since Agile overtook the old Waterfall method of software development, perhaps the biggest catalyst for this change being shorter development cycles. And while there are lots of different schools of Agile development that might be applied to any particular development initiative, each, nonetheless, shares a couple of sizable shortcomings in regard to digital business:
- Agile development requires actual software engineers to write code, which, of course, is time and resource intensive. Put another way, while Agile is faster than Waterfall, it’s still nowhere near fast enough to catalyze the emergence of digital business. Furthermore, given the sheer number of apps that will need to be written, the gap between available and necessary software engineers capable of this level of development will get ever wider for the foreseeable future.
- Hand-coded software has to be compiled, linked, and executed. And it’s this reality—baked-in feature sets—that may be the biggest short-coming of current software-development methodology when juxtaposed with the looming requirements of digital business.
The bottom line is hand-coded apps can’t be produced fast enough to satisfy future demands, nor do such apps have the responsive characteristics necessary to function in a global, data-driven, digital nervous system that ebbs and flows and changes constantly.
For part 2 in this series, click here.