Disruptive shifts in business technology

Posted on 12 Mar 2010 by The Manufacturer

Dr Simon Moores, keynote speaker at ERP Connect 2010, puts technology challenges in context.

Most of us will be familiar with the concept of new technologies arriving in ‘waves’, in the greater part driven by the inexorable progress of Moore’s Law which predicts the progress of computer hardware technology by the rule that transistor capability will double every 18-24 months – A law no doubt familiar to anyone involved semi-conductor manufacturing who will use it drive their research and development targets.

In the technology community there’s been a great deal of talk of late about something called disruptive shift. A phenomenon which is being hastened by changes in rapid technology and the consequences of the worst global recession in generations. One good example, which many of us can relate to from a social and personal perspective involves Apple’s iPhone and the expression, ‘There’s an App for that’ – in fact there are well over 100,000 now. We are seeing rapid integration of computing , internet, global positioning data and cellular telephony.

The disruptive shift, in this example, is towards personal mobile applications and a new market, encouraged by Google and by Apple, is springing-up around the devices that carry them. Very soon, in addition to instantly finding the nearest Starbucks or the time of the next train on your iPhone, you may be able to monitor you own vital signs, or indeed the speed and progress of your company’s production line in real time.

This evolutionary progress of technology is predictable and smooth curves describe the progress of both price performance and network capacity. Computing infrastructure is being increasingly virtualised away from the desktop and the company server and is loosely described as ‘The Cloud’, a utility model, which promises to release assets and is forecast to dramatically impact the cost of doing business as companies are gradually released from the burden of running an expensive and resource consuming IT infrastructure which distracts from the core business.

So what does it all mean if I was asked to predict the future ten years out? Firstly, nobody has a clue what the world will look like in five years time but we must still prepare for the future. We can however use those smooth exponential curves I spoke of earlier to be reasonably sure of the direction we are taking.

Cloud computing, utility computing, call it what you like, still has some tricky, security, regulatory and technical issues to iron out, least of all the universal availability of a high speed broadband society. However with the likes of Google and Amazon already providing successful managed services to business it’s not unreasonable to assume that over time, manufacturing companies will place more of their computing infrastructure in the Cloud, in much the same way that they rely on the National Grid for their electricity supply.

In this future, manufacturing operations, will increasingly become, automated, outsourced and leaner still, as companies attempt to reduce their exposure to infrastructure, employee costs and rising business and taxation costs in a delicately-balanced economy. Government has yet to wake-up to the socio-economic impact of such disruptive change and by the time it does; it will be a ‘fait accompli’ driven by a more Darwinian imperative, the needs of British business to compete successfully in a global economy.

Learn more about Dr Moores and ERP Connect 2010 here.