IT Trends | Feature

Gartner Predicts Cloud, Social, Mobile, and Information Forces Will Shape 2013

According to research firm Gartner, several converging forces will influence IT in the coming year.

Succeeding as an education IT leader in the new year will call for becoming comfortable with the undercurrents of several converging forces--cloud, social, mobile, and information--that are shaping the look of IT. That's the analysis of Gartner, which recently released its predictions for 2013 in a public webinar now available as a recording. Although the presentation addressed all organizational segments and both buyers and vendors of IT products and services, several of the company's predictions are especially relevant to the education sector; those are the ones we focus on here.

According to Daryl Plummer, managing vice president and a Gartner Fellow, cloud represents a "global-class delivery model so we can get services to those who need them without worrying about implementation." Social provides an alternative to the traditional team structure, allowing people to interact in ways that are "more like human beings interact." Mobile is a "pervasive access mechanism" for being able to get to and interact with "whomever, wherever, and whenever." The fourth force, information, is the growth of the "big content store"; that store contains not only data, but also "the context of the people who have used that data--where are they located, who do they work with, what kind of actions they take in certain situations.

"When you get all of this coming together on a backdrop of consumerization of the IT function, where business people and individuals are making their own decisions about technology, you get a new world," he stated.

Prediction 1: Data Will Fuel the Killer Apps of the Future
As information surfaces as a dominating force of business, the demands of big data work will grow to 4.4 million jobs around the world by 2015. But only a third of those jobs will be filled, reported Gartner, pointing to a fundamental change in the skills required to manage big data.

"Big data" Plummer noted, encompasses data that arrives at a "high velocity, from many different sources, with many different types of data--structured and unstructured--all coming at you in some kind of pseudo real-time." This work differs from the data work that dominates now, primarily business intelligence and data warehousing. Those are "generally a static view of information. It is a mining of what you have already and making decisions from it," he said. "We're talking about an active view, a dynamic view, where data is streaming at you in real time, [and you're] using that data in making judgments and decisions in interfacing with a customer in real time, in marketing to customers. Who you're going to market to is going to change because of it."

Finding qualified staff presents the challenge; but the opportunity is to become one of those data experts. As Plummer explained, the massive skills gap will exist because the new roles cross both IT and business and call for experience in information management and analytics as well as business expertise. These jobs include business analysts, chief data officers, data scientists, information architects, and legal and IT professionals whose primary work will be "capturing, analyzing, visualizing, discriminating in, and making decisions from data." Analytics and visualizations, he declared, "are the killer apps of the future."

To stay ahead of that coming gap, Plummer also recommended that managers reconsider their current unfilled positions and ask whether they're truly the right roles for the new era of big data. "It's a time to start asking questions. Your open requisitions for jobs--what jobs are they trying to fill? You need to create a new set of requirements."

Prediction 2: Security Concerns Pervade Mobile Use
Increased use of mobile devices by employees to do social activities through the cloud will result in security and privacy controls that are insufficient. Because employees are increasing their use of collaboration applications such as social networks on mobile devices, Gartner predicts that by 2017, "40 percent of enterprise contact information will have leaked into Facebook."

These micro instances of data breaches are happening for a couple of reasons, Plummer said. First, Facebook has become one of the top five apps installed on smart phones and tablets. Second, disparate social sites and enterprise services are increasingly being linked by users; identity management set up for one site is used to gain access to another site. For example, Microsoft's Social Connector for Outlook allows for integration with Facebook. As a result, he noted, "The integration and painless movement of information from applications to Facebook and others is now automatic and almost invisible."

What Plummer doesn't advise is banning Facebook. "If anyone out there has a policy that bans access to Facebook or Twitter, please stop doing that," he said. "It's a waste of your time. And it's killing your credibility with your users." IT can't stop people from getting into social sites from their own devices. The better approach is to find ways to use social to "foster communication across your company, to foster dynamic communities."

At the same time, bring-your-own-device programs are introducing increased risk into the organization. Gartner predicts that through 2014, employee-owned devices will be compromised with malware at more than double the rate of devices owned by the organization. While that may seem like an obvious outcome of unfettered personal device usage, Plummer observed, it's a fact that needs to be communicated to the user community. "Most people don't realize that while three to five percent of corporate endpoints are compromised by malware, 20 percent of consumer-grade endpoints are compromised by malware."

Most people--including IT staff--don't even realize how many of those endpoints are sitting inside the firewall with direct access to network resources. "Stopping entry to your network is something you've worked on forever," Plummer pointed out. "Now we're talking about compromised devices in massive numbers sitting behind our firewall."

Rather than try to stop the growth of BYOD or invest IT dollars in the purchase and distribution of devices that will somehow be controlled more tightly, Gartner advises its clients, take a lesson from higher education: Segment the network. Users on computing devices who are outside of IT management and control lose the ability to access sensitive network resources, but they can continue "innovating and getting things done" with their smartphones and tablets.

Then IT can redeploy resources into "security initiatives aimed at detecting and preventing the spread of malware," Plummer said. These include technologies such as mobile device management products that can implement policies to prohibit unsafe activities such as the transfer of data like e-mail.

However, he added, few solutions--even including complete lockdown--are totally effective. His advice: Focus on delivering an enterprise code of conduct policy, "to keep users responsible for the loss of enterprise information. These codes of content are much more effective than lockdown in the modern age."

Prediction 3: Gamification Joins the Mainstream
Numerous education organizations have experimented with the use of gamification to enhance student engagement. Now it's crossing into the mainstream as a way to engage workers too. The same techniques used by game designers to keep game players coming back for more--feedback, measurement, and incentives--will be used to keep employees interested in their work. Noting that 30 percent of business transformations fail due to a lack of stakeholder engagement, Gartner predicted that by 2015, 40 percent of global 1000 organizations will use gamification "as the primary mechanism to transform business operations." In fact, at some point in the next several years, the company suggested, enterprise gamification will surpass consumer game-playing.

"The way people get engaged is a very critical thing to how well they are actually able to work with the systems or processes you're trying to engage them on," Plummer explained. Gamification is at the heart of Innovation Station, an idea generation service run by IdeaScale and used by Davenport University, a private college in Michigan. Participants who submit ideas, comment, or vote earn points based on their actions, which can lead to badges and recognition on a leaderboard.

To succeed with gamification, however, IT needs to avoid becoming complacent. "Understand what works in a particular culture and plan for iterations and upping the 'game' to avoid fatigue and foster continued engagement," advised Gartner.

Prediction 4: Augmented Reality Takes Shape
Context-based information that appears at the point of a decision or action forms the basis of augmented reality, explained Plummer. "Think about an app on your Android device that allows you to point your camera and see the price of an apartment, or how many jobs are open, or what companies are in that building. You wave it at a restaurant and see messages from your friends saying, 'This restaurant is good. Try the lasagna.' You see increasingly, the idea of using mobile devices that you can wear like glasses." A "glanceable interface" could overlay hints and instructions on an activity as it's being performed.

Although the majority of revenue from wearable smart electronics is initially surfacing from applications such as activity tracking through athletic shoes, eventually wearable electronics will be used to improve worker productivity, asset tracking, and workflow, Gartner predicted. By 2016 augmented reality will be a $10 billion industry.

Windows 8 for Enterprise?

Even as organizations were in the midst of upgrading to Microsoft Windows 7, the company released Windows 8. Gartner predicted that 90 percent of enterprises will bypass deployment of the new operating system, which, Plummer said, was introduced to respond to the dominance of mobile computing, the rise of cloud services, and the ascendency of Apple and Google. Windows 8 is a transition product, best suited for tablets and convertible devices. From here on out, he added, Microsoft's philosophy will be "mobile first, not PC first." What Windows 8 won't do, he said, is "knock the iPad off its perch."

The "sweet spot" for Windows 8 adoption, Plummer noted, will be in situations where "the worker must perform tasks while standing and walking," not for desktop operations where a keyboard is in constant use.

comments powered by Disqus