2012 and beyond (part 1)

Around this time of year I’m always interested to see what the technology pundits predict for the following year. The advantage of being in a sector for a while is that you work out who’s worth listening to. Richard Holway from Techmarketview is a seasoned oracle with a great track record. Education is not his thing but it’s worth reading what he predicts for technology in 2012. Just replace “business” with “school” and “2012” with “2015+”! I jest, but it is true that trends in business often feed into education in time. I’ve added a few lines (in blue) after each item offering my education-speak version of his prediction.

1. “It’s the economy, stupid” – Although what happens in the general economy – UK, Europe, US and globally – has always had some impact on UK SITS [software and information technology scene], it has often been minimal. Indeed, UK SITS has often thrived in downturns – indeed, growth has been spurred by the need to cut costs/change business models etc. But the UK faces the possibility of an unprecedented downturn which is just bound to affect the UK SITS sector and, indeed, consumer tech too. The Governor of the Bank of England was recently asked “What will happen to the economy in 2012?” and replied “I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, let alone next year”. So, the greatest driver for our markets in 2012 will be the economy. The greatest problem facing the executives in the UK SITS sector will be uncertainty. Nobody – not the Governor of the BoE or any TMV [True Market Value] analyst – can accurately predict what will happen.

The impact on the education sector of the economic downturn in the UK is already being felt and the termination of the Building Schools for the Future was an early indication of this. Traditionally education is fairly resistant to economic cycles but I think the situation is sufficiently dire to send waves out across the entire public sector, and indeed the country, with increasing pressure to do more for less.

2. Consumerisation of Enterprise IT – Consumerisation of Enterprise IT is already an established trend but will become mainstream from 2012 providing huge threats and similarly huge opportunities. This will particularly apply to mobile, social and tablets.

Consumerisation of Enterprise IT means users finding and using their own technology tools to meet their day to day requirements in work rather than being enterprise driven. Thus the power-base of enterprise IT companies is being diluted as users create their own ecosystem of technology to meet their needs, e.g. iPhone, FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc. This trend is inevitable and desirable in the education sector too. It promotes a self-personalised experience as well as rapid innovation and diversity while reducing the management overhead for organisations.

3. Bring Your Own Tech – Similarly, BYOT will also go mainstream. Enterprises supplying tech items such as mobiles, laptops etc to employees will become as uncommon as the supply of company cars. BYOT will spur major growth in security systems and in desktop virtualisation. However, supply and support channels will be adversely affected by the BYOT trend in much the same way as manufacturers and suppliers of company cars were affected in the last decade or so.

BYOT is an extension of the consumerisation of enterprise IT. Again it’s about self-service, self-personalised technology solutions that meet the specific needs of the individual and remove the management and control of edge devices away from the organisation. It not only removes the management overhead from organisations but it also increases personal responsibility and utilisation. This is an important step to take in education in order to improve utilisation of, and therefore access to, technology.

4. Social media bubble bursts – Consumer social networks have already peaked. The winners are in place. Valuations were always in bubble territory and that bubble has also burst. However, just like the Internet bubble of 1999/2000, the world has changed. Social networks will have a huge effect on the next 10 years just as the Internet has had on the last decade. The real opportunities are now the adoption of social networks in the Enterprise.

The key point here for education is in the last sentence. There is a huge amount of potential tied up in social learning, both formal and informal, and most education organisations have resisted the integration of these platforms into their cultures. Adoption of social networks in and across education organisations will revolutionise when, where and how learning happens. It may not be 2012 for education organisations but young people are there already – in their tens of millions. We should take notice of them.

5. IT as a utility. “It’s business not IT, stupid” – For as long as I can remember, pundits have suggested that IT will become a utility – like the supply of electricity. They have made the point that nowadays nobody has an “Electricity Supply Director”. So, why do we have IT directors? Or even why do we have CIOs [Chief Information Officers]? The acceptance of BPS means that in many companies that day has already arrived. Much of the previous IT budget is now controlled by user departments. Decisions are taken for business not IT reasons. CIOs are probably a dying race. The same might well apply to some SITS companies. The need to supply a business solution already supersedes the need to supply an IT solution. I remember Paul Pindar has long objected to me ever referring to Capita as an IT company. –I suggest most other companies will object in similar fashion in the future.

This is a key one for schools in particular. Even now, all round the world (and especially in secondary education and above) network managers and technicians have created stand-alone IT empires that are mostly about the technology. They are usually characterised by being non-standard, difficult to support, lacking in scalability and  dreadfully inefficient. Technology paradigms such as the ‘cloud’ are offering great opportunities to deliver IT services from an off-premises location, increasing standardisation, availability, consistency and driving down cost. The consequence? More focus on learning in learning organisations. “It’s education not IT, stupid.”

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