Preparing for the third platform

Think Progress Team

Friday 12 May 2017

By 2020, almost all strategic IT spending will be on third-platform solutions. That’s according to IDC, the research firm that first coined the term ‘third platform’ as an amalgam of four key technology drivers.

Take the plunge now or forever play catch-up – that’s the message from many third-platform experts. The third platform is no longer the next big innovation. It’s here, it’s transforming enterprise technology and it’s evolving fast. So if your IT team hasn’t sketched out a mobile strategy, integrated big data analytics, adopted social tech or incorporated cloud-based offerings, there’s no more time to waste.

That was the point made by IDC chief analyst Frank Gens at the IDC Directions 2017 conference in Boston. He went on to say there are two pressing questions facing the technology industry:

1. When will the digital transformation (DX) economy reach scale?

2. What do firms need to do to thrive and shape the DX economy?

The answers to both questions hinge on how companies have brought third-platform solutions into the fold. Without this technology, the handbrake is still very much on any digital transformation plans.

The new face of DX

Technology and business processes are two sides of the digital transformation coin. On the technology side, key third-platform pillars of mobile, big data, social and cloud are being driven forwards by catalysts such as cognitive artificial intelligence, virtual reality and the Internet of Things (IoT). On the business side, companies need to focus on the processes the third platform can help set in motion: new services, new ways of working and new ways to reach out and maintain a customer base.

“What’s great about the marketplace today is that there is this virtuous circle,” Gens said in his opening keynote. “The third-platform technologies are making all these digital transformations possible for the business level. The more digital transformation happens, the more it’s driven for those very platform technologies. So we are just at the beginning of this big flywheel of growth and demand and innovation.”

The near horizon

The report that underpins this thinking is IDC’s Worldwide IT Industry 2017 Predictions. By 2019, one prediction goes, third platform technologies will account for nearly 75 per cent of IT spending. However, that’s a revised statistic. In 2016, IDC predicted that such spending would be lower, and over a longer period: 60 per cent by 2020.

Why the change? The third-platform umbrella is no longer an emerging technology. It’s now standard for many businesses looking to secure and maintain their competitive edge. What’s more, its take-up is accelerating, growing at more than twice the rate of the overall IT sector. This is due to innovations in every field of third-platform technology.

Social technology

Enterprises have been onboarding social technology for the past decade. Everything from voice over internet protocol (VoIP) services to social media means companies are changing the way potential customers can access information. Allied to cloud and mobile technology solutions, it means information is accessible within a stable framework and on a device that suits the end user.

The big step forward? Virtual reality, which will help social technology become more immersive. We can retain as much as 80 per cent of information if we believe we’ve experienced something firsthand – the marketing potential alone is enormous.

Mobile devices

Access to big data from any connected device is the principle that defines third-platform possibilities. Instant analytics from the latest campaign on the go, remote working, even tablet-based learning in and out of the classroom. And it’s about to get even more open-ended with the advent of 5G connectivity, the increased interconnectedness of the IoT and always-on strategy.

Now would be a good time to make sure your mobile strategy is up to scratch.

Big data

Data from every corner of a business in one place is now well established. Yet the way that data is used to inform the decision-making process is transforming. Cognitive artificial intelligence has advanced to the point where computer systems can make accurate decisions by crunching big data – and get better at it the more it crunches. The Middle East is a hotbed of machine learning, particularly in the fintech sector.

Cloud services

Third-platform cloud offerings make any enterprise’s IT solutions available on any connected device, and enable energy and maintenance intensive data storage to be handled off-site.

The key innovation is that a greater range of cloud storage solutions will suit businesses of all sizes. Out-of-the-box configurations, entry-level server arrays and the hybrid cloud will help more companies free themselves of expensive legacy hardware models.

It’s vital that your business recognises fully exploiting the third platform as a priority. That means tailoring a recruitment and development strategy to ensure your IT team is ahead of the curve. It also means never assuming a ‘done’ mindset. As third-platform technologies evolve, your team will need to continually evaluate use cases and be prepared to redeploy as better-suited tech comes along.

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