Enterprise tech biz leaders debate where the market is headed in 2013

Summary:Enterprise tech business leaders debate about who is controlling IT changes more: the CIOs or the employees?

SAN FRANCISCO -- With the end of 2012 just around the corner, plenty of trend predictions are trickling out left and right as everyone wants to predict the future.

The enterprise technology world is no exception, and a group of CEOs of some of the fastest-growing businesses in this segment gathered for a roundtable discussion on Thursday morning to discuss the near future of computing.

Reflecting on 2012, Peter Levine, a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz and the panel's moderator opened up the discussion by remarking that this year has presented a "renaissance in enterprise computing."

For example, Levine suggested that for the past several decades, the buyer has been the CIO. Today, he continued, we see that the CIO is no longer the principal buyer.

In this "new world" of enterprise computing, Levine said that the department is the new buyer, describing this trend as the "departmentalization of IT."

In this "new world" of enterprise computing, Levine said that the department is the new buyer, describing this trend as the "departmentalization of IT."

Recalling when VMware and Salesforce.com got started years ago, Levine said no one would invest because they didn't think there was room for innovation in the enterprise.

"Those companies helped define the new world," Levine argued, adding that in recent years, "innovation is happening at every level of enterprise stack," whether it be the cloud storage level, mobile computing, or data analysis.

"Each of those areas is transforming the enterprise compute stack," Levine asserted.

Thus, for the first time in the history of these shifts, Levine posited that we are seeing new business models moving towards Software-as-a-Service and pay-as-you-go computing.

GitHub CEO Tom Preston-Werner highlighted how far the social media movement has come in the last year, but he admitted that "traditionally, the enterprise really hasn't captured this."

He added that "social isn't just Facebook," explaining that the enterprise offerings that are going to succeed are going to be the ones that "use social in a more meaningful way" in order to enable people to make products that matter.

"Enterprise software, that's how things happen in the world," Preston-Werner said. "The advantages in the enterprise are about how can you write the best software the fastest."

Who is driving change more: The CIO or the employees?

Christian Gheorghe, CEO of enterprise management apps provider Tidemark, commented that for the first time within the enterprise, this "revolution is being pushed by the users rather than the vendor."

"You live and die by the user experience," Gheorghe said. "Instead of departmentalization of IT, I call it a revolution of ideas."

"You live and die by the user experience," Gheorghe said. "Instead of departmentalization of IT, I call it a revolution of ideas."

Preston-Werner replied that he thinks this is more the "consumerization of IT" as departments are more capable of purchasing their own solutions, so they can buy the apps that look the ones they like and use at home.

Box CEO Aaron Levie brought the discussion back to the CIO, suggesting that their role is changing and that they might become more important than ever before.

Levie used the example of how many CIOs at large corporations are integrating two of the most popular consumer devices worldwide -- the iPhone and the iPad -- within the workplace in response to what employees want and need.

"It will create a level of competitiveness and innovation that will always drive towards the consumerization element," Levie said, adding that the enterprise IT paradigm didn't support this five to 10 years ago. He noted that this was because "there was little incentive to replace whatever CRM or ERP system there was."

Thus, while "the consumerization trend will always be there," Levie argued that you need someone to implement the technology within the enterprise, and that person is the CIO.

In regards to the iPad and iPhone reference, obviously one of the biggest forces pushing this revolution is mobile. While mobility is being favored and promoted by a lot of businesses in various industries that enables collaboration and productivity, we all know that there are plenty of risks associated as well.

"The first trend we see is that companies are afraid of how consumers are shifting," said Suhail Doshi, CEO of Mixpanel, an analytics service for web-based and mobile applications. "They're afraid that their web views are down, and they're unable to understand whether they're losing users or being displaced."

The answer that Doshi provided is that they're really just being displaced as certain consumers find mobile to be the right platform for them.

Patrick Collison, CEO and co-founder of payments platform Stripe, commented that mobile is challenging for organizations that have existed in the desktop/PC world.

Asserting that if you "look at the numbers" in the United States, Collison said that it's not so much about a shift towards mobile but rather that we're using both mobile devices and PCs. But in developing markets such as India and China, Collison asserted that the trend is "mobile only."

Collison said that the enterprise world needs to figure out a way to make that all of those platforms together.

What enterprise IT goals will be realized in 2013?

Looking forward, Levine suggested that 2013 will be "the year of enterprise acceleration." He described that this will be the year when we leap from serving endpoint customers that have touched this on a departmental level to a wider-scale adoption within the enterprise -- whether it's driven by SaaS, mobile or a combination of factors.

Levie added that he thinks we'll see the emergence of an "enterprise app economy," citing that Box has a lot of customers that sign up for the cloud storage service -- but mainly because they want to use a third-party application that uses Box on the back-end infrastructure.

Doshi touched on big data, arguing that's a term often tossed around but we don't even really know what it means yet.

But in 2013, Doshi predicted there will "be this great need for people wanting to understand this information" and actually do something with it now that we have the technology to understand how people are using applications.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Cloud, Enterprise 2.0, IT Priorities, Software Development

About

Rachel King is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in San Francisco, covering business and enterprise technology for ZDNet, CNET and SmartPlanet. She has previously worked for The Business Insider, FastCompany.com, CNN's San Francisco bureau and the U.S. Department of State. Rachel has also written for MainStreet.com, Irish Americ... Full Bio

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