Monday, February 2, 2009

2009 BI Market Prediction #4: Consumerization of Information

I’ve saved the best for last in my four-week series of BI Market Predictions. This prediction introduces ideas and evidence that make the impact of my first three predictions (my last three posts) short-lived by comparison. Simply put, enterprise information systems will require a simpler, more consumer-oriented approach to appeal to the younger generation of up-and-coming workers, a concept I call the "consumerization of information.”

The facts are clear: the evolving workforce and its expectations for software, which will drastically transform software development and usage, especially in the enterprise software market, is underway. The consumerization of information is based on a very real workforce demographic shift that becomes even more pronounced starting in 2009. As the aging workforce in the largest economies continues to retire (in the U.S., it’s the baby boomer generation) and more young workers enter and climb higher, we’ll see a widening gap (I call it the “expectation gap”) between the expected behavior of enterprise applications and their actual behavior.

Younger workers have grown up with computers and, by and large, the Internet. They’ve never NOT been connected. Therefore, their expectations for how software systems should behave are vastly different from an older worker who has grown into computers and software during the course of his career. My favorite example is a personal one. One evening, while helping my 14-year old daughter complete her science homework, which meant graphing her results data, printing, and pasting on to a poster, I experienced first-hand this prediction. She and I were both frustrated trying to label an Excel chart properly. Rather than persevere, my daughter went to Google, searched for “free graphs,” brought up a very simple web page (web service) that allowed her to enter her data and click “Graph It!” It produced a perfect pie chart, which she copied, pasted and printed. She was done in seconds.

Therefore, those software vendors that design products that work according to the new web principles will fare well with this younger generation of workers. Those software vendors that do not will become less relevant. While the effects of the consumerization of information will have a big impact on BI tools in 2009, they’ll compound each year thereafter – as more baby boomers retire and more Gen X and Gen Y workers replace them. And, although my example here focuses on the United States, this same demographic phenomenon will play out similarly in most of the major economies over the course of the next decade.

I’m often asked to predict which software vendors will gain advantage as a result of the consumerization of information and which will fall aside. So, I’ll turn this question to you . . . who do you believe stands to gain and lose as the workforce landscape shifts?

Brian Gentile
Chief Executive Officer


  1. Hi Brian;

    I'm surprised no one has posted a comment yet...this (the changing of the guard, so to speak) has to be one of the more compelling stories around.

    I see the flipside (or maybe just another facet) of the same issue with respect to knowledge acquisition. Companies will not be able to afford the current fifteen percent overhead that Gartner and others say is currently in place when employees gogo looking for relevant information.

    New employees coming on board will need to get up to speed much more quickly than my generation, and that is one of the motivations behind an approach I call Quantum Semantics.

    In spite of its markety name it is a simple way to connect so-called 'structured' data with its poor, redheaded unstructured cousin.

    Software interfaces of the future will need to be designed like integrated circuits: multiple layers accessed through semantic 'pins' along with lateral paths, logical gates and other metaphors too numerous to mention.

    I will follow your posts a bit more closely now that I know where you are.

    John O'

  2. John,

    Great addition to an important demographic phenomenon. I like the "Quantum Semantics" term, despite it being "markety". Enabling even novice users to more capably use information is fundamental to the next phase of web-based applications. It is surely what we are tracking to at Jaspersoft. You're right that costly overhead (in the form of complexity) prevents real insight too commonly today.

    Thanks for your comment.

    Brian Gentile