Just Observing the Trends

It’s useful to monitor trends.  For example: software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider Salesforce.com is projected to pass SAP as the worldwide leader in customer relationship marketing (CRM) software, with well over US$2B in annual revenues.  Fellow SaaS vendor Workday competes directly with SAP and Oracle, replacing their premises-based ERP human capital management (HCM) and payroll solutions for most new customers.  Revenues for the quarter ending in January doubled year over year.  And Zuora, a SaaS vendor providing a complete solution for selling subscriptions (think ZipCar) has literally created their own niche.  Zuora CEO Tien Tzuo, former chief strategy officer and employee number 11 at Salesforce.com, recently noted, “Something happened 18 months ago. … [now] the CIO has to justify why it isn’t SaaS or cloud.”  Of course, most SaaS solutions have to share information with premises- based solutions, so corporate IT is still a part of the implementation and on-going operation.  But as organizations transition to more SaaS solutions and outsourced services, IT is watching a lot more cloud-to-cloud integrations, from the bleachers.

Another trend: according to W3Techs, WordPress is the content management system in use on 18.2% of all internet sites (including this one).  more importantly, it’s used by nearly 16.7% of Alexa Internet’s “top 1 million” websites, up from 14% two years ago.  It’s popular for the same reason that microwave ovens are popular – you don’t need to know anything to use it, and you get fast results.  Of course, it also helps that it’s free.  I pay a few bucks a year to DreamHost for them to host my domain, but the truth is, if I hosted it on WordPress.com, like nearly 66 million other bloggers, I wouldn’t have to pay anything at all.  And while there are literally thousands of WordPress consultants and a variety of premium services available from the Mothership, most of us don’t use them.  We just pick out the plug-ins, widgets, themes, and other bits we want to use, configure them, and start producing content.  No programming required, just DIY.

Sill another trend: users are getting accustomed to scanning the online stores for software from their phone or iPad, downloading several apps, and after playing with each of them, deleting the ones they don’t want to use.  Both Apple and Google claim more than 800,000 third party applications are available for their respective platforms, and Apple says there are more than 300,000 apps optimized for the iPad.  In many cases, the software uses a “freemium” model, so that users who decide to opt for a more full-featured or ad-free version can simply upgrade for a few dollars, after trying the free version.  The obvious challenge for corporate IT is how to provide secure access for employee-owned devices that will be used to access and manipulate corporate data.  But the more difficult question is, how do we manage their expectations of corporate-developed applications?

I mention these trends because I keep seeing “purists” argue that Agile development methods are producing better software.  And I absolutely agree – WordPress, Salesforce, Workday, and Zuora all use Agile methods, mostly Scrum.  They are developing truly amazing applications, with consumer-grade user experiences, and grabbing market share from the long-time leaders.  They are succeeding at a level that should gratify the folks who composed the Agile Manifesto at Snowbird, Utah in 2001.  But they are gradually putting corporate IT department software developers out of work.

As practicing IT project managers, we need to look ahead a few years, and prepare ourselves and our organizations for the near future, based on the trends we see developing.  And for many of us, the near future will be about transitioning to consumer-grade, user-DIY, SaaS, and mass market mobile solutions that will take BYOD to a whole new problem set.  It’s already proving to be an interesting decade – we just have to avoid getting bogged down with the last decade’s debates.