The old-tech/new-tech dichotomy, between technology companies that predate the era of smartphones, social networks and cloud services and those from the mobile app, post-PC generation, needn’t be an unbridgeable chasm. Microsoft’s renaissance under it’s cloud-savvy new CEO is a great example. But of the old-tech companies, the former Computer Associates is perhaps the perfect evangelist of new-tech business transformation. The company that started selling mainframe software loaded by keypunch cards has successfully navigated several major technology epochs. Now, echoing its prior evolution from mainframe software developer to full-line supplier of IT infrastructure and development software, CA is using the confluence of cloud systems and services, high-velocity, API-enabled app development and mobile device ubiquity to catalyze its next transition into what it hopes will be the preeminent arms merchant for the next-generation of business software. In sum, CA wants to be your app store and SaaS provider for a new generation of applications for the software defined business.
Source: Roger Pielke, Jr. Blog
CEO Mike Gregoire says today’s world of always-connected mobile devices, where businesses increasingly interact with customers through apps and Web sites, not store visits or sales calls, is a harbinger of what he calls the application economy. Gregoire used his opening keynote for the company’s annual CA World dog and pony show, as a call to action for CA’s assembled customers and business partners, to prepare their companies for a future defined, differentiated and driven by software. While his oft-invoked refrain that ”software is the business” was overly simplistic, it served to drive home a key message: Marc Andreessen was right, software is eating the world and business success will go to those that exploit it.
Gregoire has the facts on his side and cited plenty of trends in making the case:
- The explosion in mobile users and data traffic: Ericsson expects mobile traffic to grow 10-fold by 2019, a clear demonstration that people, whether customers, employees, business partners or suppliers, prefer to access information and services.
- The success of mobile apps and marketplaces: Downloads from Apple’s App Store have topped 85 billion, with 36% revenue growth and nearly $5 billion in sales. Google’s Play Store actually serves up even more downloads, although revenues lag.
- The associated user conditioning to expect intuitive usability and instant gratification. Gregoire contends that the consumer mobile app experience has established the usability benchmark for enterprise applications, and set a slim margin for error, with data showing that users have a low tolerance for mediocre or slow apps. Apps get one shot to impress and had better load within a few seconds or else, it, and the business or service behind it, are history for that customer.
- The explosion of personal smartphones and tablets used for work to the point that BYOD is now an assumption, not an IT dispensation.
- The growth of omnichannel retailing in which consumers meander between mobile, browser and in-store experiences.
The Software Defined Business
Together, Gregoire contends these trends mean that “applications now define a business’ relationship with its customers and fuel the productivity of its employees.” Reiterating the theme that software is the key to future business success, he says, “We now live in a world where customers are no longer just loyal to the brand or product or service. Instead, they are loyal to the complete experience a brand delivers. And that experience is delivered by software.” In sum: success at creatively exploiting and successfully deploying software across the spectrum of business activities, from internal processes to customer engagements, will separate the winners from losers in the coming application economy.
As befits any good sales pitch, after laying out the problem and establishing the need, Gregoire delivers the goods in the form of a three CA product strategies designed to facilitate its customers’ transition to the software-defined business. These focus on: accelerating application development through DevOps, improving security while reducing user inconvenience and managing cloud services with existing control systems and as part of an overall IT service portfolio.
While the management and security messages play to CA’s customer base, the DevOps theme is new. Although CA has evangelists like Andi Mann preaching the DevOps message that enterprises software development must jettison its conservative and lethargic habits to look more like that at Google or Facebook, it’s a foreign concept to the many IT pros not steeped in the fast-paced culture of Silicon Valley.
Bridging Today’s IT Imperatives with Tomorrow’s Software-centric Opportunities
But CA World was a tale of two companies. Leave the keynote speeches and wonder through some of the technical sessions or show flow product booths and it was clear most of the assembled masses were concerned about the here and now of managing existing IT systems, working with legacy CA products and learning about the latest feature upgrades. Sure, the DevOps sessions like Gene Kim’s excellent talk on key DevOps practices and four practical steps to implementation were crowded, but products to support agile software development, API management cloud service operations are investments in CA’s future, not about meeting next quarter’s sales numbers.
Herein lies the problem CA and all old-tech companies seeking to capitalize on the incredible changes in IT wrought by mobile, social, cloud and big data technologies: how to build a bridge to the future without marginalizing cash cows of the past? How to entice new customers and energize employees without alienating existing users?
With Software, Speed Kills…Competitors
At CA World, the answer was a palpable focus on business results, actual case studies and pioneering users to tell the app economy story. The event was replete with panel sessions with representatives from acknowledged technology leaders like Facebook, Nike and Twitter along with traditional large enterprises like ING Bank, Molina Healthcare and Smuckers. All sharing variations on the theme that innovative use of the new IT: cloud services, agile, API-centered software development, mobile app service delivery and less intrusive security techniques leads to competitive advantage via faster product and service development, new revenue streams, more satisfied and engaged customers and re-energized employees.
Whether through fitness bands and smart watches or IoT industrial sensors and mobile app payments, it’s hard to argue that software isn’t pervading every business and aspect of life. CA’s contention that software is the business may be hyperbolic, but it’s clear: software now defines business. and the most successful companies will be those that master the software-powered app economy.
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