Cliche, perhaps, but please indulge me as we start the year. As I sat down to think about the year to come, what′s interesting is that in spite of all the talk of global uncertainty there are some things about 2009 that seem pretty crystal clear. Let me know if you agree.
One of the interesting features of 2008 was the number of software CEOs and pundits who rushed out to say that SaaS wasn′t important — especially for large companies. And I was going to write that the end of SaaS-bashing starts with 2009, but as Phil Wainewright points out, it isn′t quite over yet. But it will be this year.
Given that we are US company, I maybe should have entitled this “The year of Meat and Potatoes”, but I think you get the point. Talk to any sales executive and you′ll find decisions are taking a lot longer and getting more scrutiny than anyone can remember. It′s hard to argue against this. What it means for companies like Workday, who are selling enterprise applications, is that we must have a rock solid business case. As Gartner′s Thomas Otter said on a conference call with us late last year, its about Broccoli not Ice Cream. Investment will go to critical areas and ‘09 will be a year where the business case will trump other factors.
Rapid growth hides the need for agility…there isn′t a pressing need to find a better way – or a better deal – when you′re trying to simply keep up with market demand. But 2009 is about real-time agility: M&A, downsizing or even fundamental changes in business strategy. Whether it be someone like Citigroup reversing a decade long “financial supermarket” strategy in a matter of months or longer term items such as Health Care reform (which could start to change the link between employment and health care coverage) or even new financial accounting standards, it is clear that change is only starting. All this change will need to be captured in enterprise applications, and the obsolescence of apps designed for 1980s business will become even more apparent.
A by-product of almost everything in my list is that the User Interface to enterprise applications is changing. Rapidly. Classic ERP applications are cemented to a UI that was popular when Windows 3.1 was new. Menu screens..upon menu screens..upon menu screens (they′ve had some “lipstick” applied, but the trouble that phrase got Barack Obama into precludes me from using it). In 2009, enterprise “2.0″ applications will dramatically extend the usability lead over legacy ERP to become even more like consumer Internet sites. Every piece of data will be a link: when I see an employee I can click to see where they are located, what job function they have, etc. and I can take action wherever I′m working: from e-mail, mobile, RSS, etc. Think Google (ask a question, get an answer) vs. ERP (login, navigate, menu, run report, navigate…).
Facebook, Twitter and MySpace became part of the mainstream in 2008…if mainstream means us 40-somethings finally got the message. I think we′re barely starting to imagine how these ad-hoc social networks can be integrated with enterprise applications, or how enterprise applications can become more socially aware and effectively collaborative. Or how consumer social networking sites simply work their way into the workplace… There is an inevitable blurring of the lines between the tools we use in the workplace and those we use personally, offering some very exciting possibilities for 2009 and beyond.
For the last 20 years, the whole area of very large scale transactions systems has been dominated by relational databases. We have wrapped these systems with Web front ends, we′ve moved business logic into a separate tier, we′ve built SOA interfaces to them. However, we haven′t fundamentally changed the paradigm for building very large systems—nor have we really challenged the interaction pattern that relational systems impose on enterprise applications. I expect that 2009 will be a year when many people start to think in a fundamental way about how we build, and interact with, large complex systems.
Well, to a certain extent, this is really a spill over from 2008. However, the recent Gartner Predicts article on middleware picked up a theme that we at Workday have been on about some time. It′s core finding is that “even amid the financial crisis, the number of global B2B transactions will grow and … that new alternatives designed for the cloud will challenge dominating application infrastructure products”. I think the corollary to this is that “integration,” like any other technology, can now be safely and reliably provided as-a-Service. And based on what I′m seeing across our own efforts and those of our SaaS peers is that in 2009, with the acceleration of SaaS in general, you will see an large shift in integration technologies—away from the data center and into the cloud.