The Next Generation of Digital Game-Changers
The last several years have seen great progress and expansion in the IT sector, even as the global economy has faced severe challenges on many fronts – recession, debt, wars, political instabilities, industrial accidents, even civil strife. At a time when US unemployment remains greater than 9 percent, US IT unemployment is less than 4 percent. Symbolically, Apple recently (if only briefly) passed Exxon to become the world’s most valuable company. We expect this good times/bad times IT/business divide to continue for at least another year, perhaps much longer.
Figure 1 – Good times, bad times
When the majority of IT spending was on large, capital-intensive projects, IT and the economy tended to expand or contract together. But as the IT business has been consumerized, and as technology spending becomes more of a variable cost, we seem to be experiencing a significant decoupling. Those who argued that IT was merely a commodity and that IT jobs would inevitably be moved offshore have thus far been proven wrong, and IT remains one of the few bright spots within developed world economies.
The reality is that large North American and European organizations are increasingly becoming a niche market in the global IT space, where internet-connected devices are now measured in the billions. This ever more deeply empowered and connected world is generating all sorts of potential new applications that will significantly change the way markets work and business is done.
Identifying some of the most likely and important of these changes over the rest of this decade is the purpose of our digital game-changer research.
Figure 2 – Digital game-changer project goals
As this report will show, the range of potentially significant new IT innovation is extraordinary, touching just about every form of human endeavour. The purpose of our digital game-changer project has been to identify the most significant of these new technologies and business practices according to the definition above. While many of the advances discussed in this paper are rooted in consumer markets and will significantly affect both society at large and the competition among IT suppliers, our focus in this paper is on their likely impact on large organizations.
Since a great many topics will be covered, our goal is not to look at each area in detail, but rather to raise overall awareness within both the business and IT communities. Thus this paper has been written for an audience of executives concerned with positioning their firms for the future. While our period of reference varies from one to ten years, our target is to describe the IT landscape three to five years from now. However, experience tells us that the direction of change is considerably easier to forecast than the speed, and thus in this paper we put much more emphasis on the nature of the changes we expect, and much less on specific dates and timetables.