Information Technology: A Look Back And Forward


Are you still waiting for your personal jetpack or flying car? In 2011, I read a fun ZDNet blog piece about the future of information technology. Well, at the time it really wasn’t much predicting as it was documenting trends. But let’s take a look at then and now, and look at 5 to 10 years in the future, what that might look like and how it might impact your career.


User Experience (UX)

a look forward and backward

We said we were shifting from a graphical user interface (GUI) to touchscreen and next-generation mobile. Touchscreen and some form of pen have been around for a decade but are just gaining mainstream adoption. For the next generation mobile (and general UX) we’ve got voice response for input to a device and 3D goggles for visual input. Five years from now? Expect voice response in the home to become mainstream and a combination of touchscreen and voice to replace the keyboard and mouse as the primary interface. Will we get to Minority Report or Iron Man level of “air” 3D input and output? Sorry, no. That is more on the 20-year horizon. Change to your career? Limited, except those of us that are older, need to reskill to be impactful.

IT delivery

We said we were shifting from Data Center and PC to Cloud and Browser. We are just hitting mainstream adoption of cloud and browser-based versions of many apps that are in use. We even have a device from Google that only works when connected to the Internet. Five years from now, expect to pay subscriptions for everything and have all of your content in the cloud and available from whatever device you use. The device and application suite will be commodities that can be switched fairly easily. That said, the demise of the stores that have unique use credentials and block access from anything other than their device is coming. The biggest blocker will be the content owners, such as the movie, video, book, music companies that want you to pay for the same content over and over as you migrate from device to device. This could have a bigger impact on your career as the lines between company confidential and personal blur, and tools and locations change. We already have many companies that support bring-your-own-device (BYOD). From a skills perspective, if you are in the tech business, there will be big changes in how you do what you do. Everything needs to assume loose coupling, easy discovery, no control over connection state, failure at every integration point and no control over the platform with a multitude of authentication methods. If you are not already doing it, set up free accounts with the major cloud providers and create a mobile app that works with each back-end environment and provides mash-up from Internet-based APIs.  

Info & comm

We are shifting from content management system (CMS) / data management system (DMS) and email to social media and app stores. We are transitioning now. Business is still business and email or face-to-face meetings are still the primary tools for communications. Most companies are still email-as-a-repository where files are attached to emails and distribution lists are used for community conversation. Younger, more high-tech companies have transitioned from that environment to using Yammer (or similar) and other social tools to support collaboration and file sharing. Not heard of Yammer? Think Facebook for business. App stores are in place and a lot of the tools for collaboration and business productivity are outstanding and most have a social/collaborative piece to them. Where will we be in five more years? Any communications/message you create will be constructed in a single tool and will be able to be sent through one or more mechanisms, such as a tweeting, instant messaging, pushing out as a FB post, blog item, etc.. You’ll have a single authentication you will complete one time and it will work for all of your services. Operating systems and apps will be an afterthought and your apps and data will be available on whatever device you happen to be using.

Innovation & usage model

We said it would shift from enterprise to the consumer, and we are in that transition. There are two areas I want to focus on here. First, the tools that were only available to enterprises are now available to you and me. A lot of the innovation that was only available to enterprises is now available to you and me – a gigantic plus. If I want to start a business I don’t need a ton of cash to get going. I can use cloud service providers and with a few smart and energetic people, I can create a business. With 3-d printing, I can do a number of incredible things, though not as many as I want. An example of a solution a young woman turned into a business is eye shadow. She wanted to be able to print her own eye shadows in the colors she wanted and in small quantities. She did it and has set up a boutique business to sell the capability to others. Most recent (and useful) thing I have seen so far is that we can print our own pizzas. The second area is blending the work and consumer environment together so the user can switch between environments with whatever device they happened to be holding. We are a long way from this reality, but the challenges are less about technology and more about the way business operates and the way people in IT think. I cannot seamlessly view my work email on my television during a commercial break (what’s a commercial again?) and I cannot easily have a single device for home and work use. Where will we be in five years? Business will be less about gigantic corporations and more about federations of small businesses. Rather than going to the parts store to pick up a new part, you will be able to instant message with a business that will send a file to your 3D printer and you will print it at home. Want to use an application that used to cost $3000? You’ll be able to rent it and pay for the time you use it. Will we be able to make a good tasting printable pizza though? I doubt it.


We are shifting from databases and business intelligence (BI) to big data. You see it every day. Do a search on a product or buy a product and watch how the ads you are exposed to change. So what’s the difference between the two? One of the key ones is that databases are very structured and while the size can be quite large, the amount of data is small compared to the amount of data possible. BI pulls insights on very structured data and guidance that a data scientist creates. Big data pulls an entire pipe of unstructured data in, finds relevant insight and discards the data leaving the insight. The amounts that go through the big data environment are exponentially larger than available through a database. But, to set up either of the environments mentioned takes a bit of skill and experience. Where will we be in five years? The interface and skills needed to pull data through a big data pipe and discover relevant information will be common language driven so you and I can find insights that are interesting to us. I think the most tangible use of big data will be around personal health and healthcare. With our smart watches/phones/devices, etc. we are monitoring a ton of real-time health information. We’ll soon be combining that will our health records and as thing bend away from our norm (health wise) we will get messages from devices. We will be able to IM with health professionals for common problems that should not take a visit to the doctor and will be informed when something is serious enough that we really should get to a clinic.

If you do nothing else, consider coming back in five years and checking in on my predictions.

Andy Ruth
SEI Mentor
Apprenticeship Program