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Innovation

Eyes on the Horizon

Oracle experts are on the lookout for 2015’s big trends.

by Monica Mehta

February 2015

Every year, the editors of Profit ask thought leaders and experts in the Oracle community to provide insight into what they see as the biggest technology trends for the coming year.

For 2015, our writers submitted pieces on hot tech trends such as cloud computing, big data, security, and the Internet of Things (IoT). They also addressed a few interesting outlying topics, such as gamification in human resources, e-government, and the danger of obsolescence in IT organizations.

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The unifying trend to emerge from the pieces is that new innovations continue to disrupt the way people live, shop, and do business, causing organizations to transform the way they provide products and services in order to stay competitive. Here’s a sampling of what’s next.

Trend #1: Cloud and IoT Transform the Public Sector

Cloud computing, IoT, and social media are a few of the technologies that are drastically changing the way citizens interact with their governments. Subramanian Iyer and Khaled AlSaleh, senior directors with Oracle Insight, foresee local governments using more tools in these areas to reach constituents in the year ahead.

“Implementing technology deployed over cloud computing platforms that enables speedier service deployment, communication to different devices, and social relationship management is a natural process for governments that aspire to be globally competitive and provide better facilities to businesses and citizens.

In order to create and sustain these benefits, it is important that technological innovations be implemented in a phased manner, beginning with smart government and ultimately evolving into smart city deployments,” writes Iyer.

IoT will be a big game changer for citizen engagement in 2015, writes AlSaleh, as governments ramp up their use of sensors to enhance services, improve efficiency, and drive productivity within the public sector.

“Governments can now, in real time, monitor pollution levels around the city and possibly direct traffic or transport—through incentives—to reduce pollution within certain parts of the city. They can use weather data to see the impact of rain on the demand for a certain bus route and increase or decrease the service accordingly.

In certain cities where parking covers as much as a third of the full land area of the downtown, cities are able to use sensors to allocate parking more efficiently and price spots based on demand. This also reduces the carbon footprint caused by cars as they look for an empty parking space, with some research estimating that, at any given time, 30 percent of cars circling a city are looking for parking,” writes AlSaleh.

Best-practice organizations can choose to improve quality or lower cost, but not both at the same time.”–Ron de Jong, Senior Director, Oracle Insight

AlSaleh also notes that the economic benefits of IoT for cities will be significant: “It’s likely that new industries will emerge to serve this nascent technology, spurring economic development and employment, not to mention the social and economic benefits inherent in efficiency, and so public sector CIOs need to prepare for the inevitable.”

Trend #2: IT Needs a Makeover

Oracle ACE Director Sten Vesterli and Oracle Insight Senior Manager Nitin Manoharan tackle the rapidly transforming area of IT infrastructure. Old systems and processes are bogging down IT organizations, they say, slowing IT response time and compounding inefficiencies—preventing the CIO from meeting the demands of modern business.

“This is the situation that many IT departments find themselves in: They have layers upon layers of old systems based on dozens of technology stacks from mainframes to Windows servers,” writes Vesterli. “Each of these systems has been haphazardly connected to other systems as need arose, creating a Gordian knot that mere mortals cannot seem to untie. Additionally, knowledge of these systems has decayed over time as people have left the organization. Together, this leads to an IT organization stranded and unable to maneuver as business needs change.”

Fortunately, IT leaders have the opportunity to change their systems and processes before it’s too late. Vesterli lays out a plan for simplifying IT infrastructure so that organizations end up “buoyant, responsive, and ready to go with speed and agility to whatever destination the business needs.”

Manoharan says companies need to modernize outdated in-house applications and make them “cloud ready” to be able to leverage disruptive technology trends. In the short term, “there will be an explosion in the use of true hybrid clouds driven mainly by major external trends—namely, big data, IoT, and mobility,” he writes. “In the medium to long term, more sophisticated business processes will be developed, and as the public cloud matures, more of the enterprise-wide processes will be transferred to the public cloud. Thus, the public cloud side of the hybrid cloud will continue to grow until a dynamic equilibrium between public and private cloud is established.”

Trend #3: The Culture of IT Must Change

It’s not just the IT infrastructure that needs a makeover—it’s also the people and culture. Career coach Karen Armon and Oracle Insight Senior Director Ron de Jong argue that IT leaders and employees are behaving as if it’s business as usual, thwarting their own careers and stifling innovation—which, in the era of digital disruption, threatens IT’s role in the enterprise.

Armon says continued disruption in technology will “significantly impact business strategy and, thus, careers because of new digital technologies, shifting demographics, changing customer behavior, and mounting pressure on the world’s most critical natural resources.” To keep up with changing roles, workers will need to manage their careers differently—leaving their current positions to find promotions, deepening skills and expertise in new areas of the business, and divesting themselves of previous knowledge that no longer serves the role.

In his piece, de Jong asks why, with so many companies today focusing on innovation as a strategic survival initiative, aren’t we seeing more commitment from the IT department? “With all of the new development in IT, one would expect that our world would be flooded with new innovations that would accelerate companies.” He attributes part of the problem to a long period of cost pressure, during which IT placed more emphasis on managing budgets. “While this is a good practice to reduce cost, it may be an inhibitor of innovation,” says de Jong. “Best-practice organizations can choose to improve quality or lower cost, but not both at the same time. The same is true for increasing innovation and lowering cost.”

Trend #4: Privacy in Mind

As more people live more of their lives on the internet, creating massive amounts of data from their online activities, privacy will become a major issue for everyone. Oracle Insight Principal Business Analyst Amitava Ghosh and Oracle ACE Director Ron Batra examine the topic of privacy through the lenses of online security and big data.

“Instead of targeting individuals, cybercriminals will increasingly target networks—both human and Internet of Things, often with difficult-to-ascertain total losses,” writes Ghosh. “More alarmingly, global terrorists will increasingly use their internet expertise to recruit their foot soldiers. These organizations will look to use unsuspecting nonsympathizers, and their unsecured devices as instruments to further their media and other objectives.” As a result, individuals will change the way they behave online, which could result in an unfortunate chilling effect on internet commerce and conversation.

“Even after data is aggregated and masked, people may find some forms of targeted marketing too aggressive and decide to opt out of leaving certain digital footprints that could be analyzed later on,” writes Batra. “In addition, analysis of certain information (such as location data, for example) can provoke negative reactions from the public. This brings out concerns of personal security as well as predictions of an Orwellian future.”

Technology is poised to cause new disruption—as well as new opportunity—in the year”

Managers will need to mitigate the ever-changing security and privacy threats associated with doing business online and keep up with the latest best practices in password protection, minimize the use of personal information online, and customize security settings on various websites. For the organization as a whole, IT needs to drive the adoption of stronger data encryption levels and consider the implementation of new security tools, such as biometrics for user authentication.

Trend #5: Gamification of HR

On a lighter note, Oracle Insight Senior Director Susan Poser says more and more employees are going to see gaming techniques that encourage them to adopt habits that benefit their company. These efforts will seek to increase employee engagement with HR, but should have the side benefit of making work a bit more fun.

“Several companies have already deployed gaming techniques for human resources purposes such as training and leadership development,” writes Poser. “For example, the Deloitte Leadership Academy embeds missions, badges, and leaderboards to promote the skills most important to the company. As participants complete missions and online learning programs from renowned business schools such as Stanford, they receive badges for each achievement.

NTT Data’s Ignite Leadership game is designed to develop critical leadership skills in the areas of negotiation, communication, time management, change management, and problem solving. The game not only helps develop skills, but also identifies potential leaders based on their scores.”

Poser believes that all areas of the business could benefit from incorporating gamification into key processes, to increase collaboration, improve productivity, and drive awareness using the employees as players in a game.

Poser offers some examples: Post a blog, earn a point. Share a posting from your CEO, earn a point for each Like you get. Tweet a post, get a point for each retweet. “Whether you are driving awareness for a particular project or product inside or outside the company, participants would be awarded for creating more buzz,” she says.

Staying Ahead of the Trends

Technology is poised to cause new disruption—as well as new opportunity—in the year ahead. It is a tension that executives will need to contend with if they are going to succeed in 2015. Indeed, Oracle CEO Mark Hurd told a group of Oracle customers in São Paulo, Brazil, in 2014 that the best way to capitalize on disruption is to remain open to innovation and strategic about the investments the business makes.

“Any one of your main competitive threats may be test-driving new services based on digital technology that, once unleashed, could leave you in the dust,” says Hurd. “The world is changing around you; don’t ignore it. So my advice is this: Don’t let your company get behind the innovation curve, because you won’t have time to react.”

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