In order to realise tomorrow's objectives, however, high performing IT leaders and business executives must abandon yesterday's approaches and take a hard look at a future that will be marked by three converging forces:

1 Data Reigns Supreme
The age of viewing everything through an application lens, as generations of programmers and architects have long done, is nearing an end. Instead, platform architectures will be selected primarily to cope with soaring volumes of data and the complexity of data management, rather than for their ability to support applications.

In this new age, the quantity, processing speeds and distribution of data will compel IT and business leaders to see the world through a data lens. While the true and tried relational database will remain, it will soon make way for other types of databases — streaming databases, for example — that will mark a huge departure from what the business world has relied on for decades.

As a result, business leaders will be forced to reframe their IT orientation more broadly around the idea of data value and utility to gain a competitive edge. More and more organisations will begin to view data as something that can provide a competitive advantage, with data now becoming the platform that supports application services.

2 Social Networks Become Social Platforms
The evolution of social media will disrupt the way companies do business, creating new opportunities and challenges. Social networks will begin to evolve into social platforms that promise to become a valuable source of business intelligence for companies.

As this occurs, company websites will no longer be the first port of call for customers. This means that companies, who have long placed an emphasis on search engine optimisation and promotions to draw people to their websites, will begin to shift their resources to programs for engaging users where they congregate online, on social platforms.

Social identities, which are based on the rich history of information that individuals leave in social platforms through their interactions, will begin to function as ongoing focus groups. The intelligence they provide will help companies monitor their brands, develop more targeted promotions, and measure their performance more effectively against competitors.

These social identities will provide a far more valuable form of identity than name, physical address, social security number or driver's license number, giving companies a consistent and comprehensive look at individuals' preferences, interactions with peers, and other activities.

3 Cloud Computing Creates Greater Value
Cloud computing has become a global phenomenon. In the near future, however, it will become so pervasive that the term itself will become superfluous.

We believe the mindset around cloud computing will shift from such obvious, but non-differentiating benefits as cost reduction through cloud infrastructure, to where it will offer more value higher up in the stack: in areas like Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS), in combination with internal applications.

Hybrid clouds — mixing public and private services — will emerge as the dominant model, providing the best balance of flexibility and managed risk, creating value not only through cost reduction, but also with speed to market, agility and the ability to gracefully integrate business processes with partners and suppliers.

The changes, of course, will not end here. We also predict widespread changes over the years ahead in the areas of data security, data privacy, analytics, architecture and user experience — all that promise to impact greatly on business performance.

It's an exciting time, one that puts the onus on IT leaders and their business counterparts to recast their approaches to technology in the context of these enhanced capabilities. Those who understand the full impact of these profound technology changes and are quick to grasp them will be best positioned to help their organisations outperform and pull away from the competition.

Gavin Michael is global managing director, R&D and alliances at Accenture

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