Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bob's 2009 Crystal Ball

Well, I guess it's time for me to dust off the old crystal ball - and (again) publicly humiliate myself by making some predictions for what will happen in the upcoming year. I've been loath to do this in past years - but as part of my new "happy place" resolution - I'm going to put myself out there and predict some winners and losers in 2009.

The Winners:

SaaS-based Solutions. We have all seen that the rise in Software as a Service (SaaS) applications are on the rise this past year. I think this trend will only continue in 2009 as companies are still in a really "unsure" position and continue to turn the lights off at an astounding rate.

I think most of the "big" cuts will wrap up in early Q1. The problem (and opportunity) is that now businesses will be left with 20% to 50% less people to do 100% of the work that needs to get done. Since the cuts have been (in most cases) all across the board - there are now even less IT folks to go around and they've got their own problems to deal with - and chances are good that your project won't be one of them.

SaaS implementation won't just be the domain of some Web 2.0 software, but I think that companies will also want to be able to offer the packages that they've traditionally bought as on-premises apps as internal SaaS applications as well. This means that ISV's and software vendors better get a solid SaaS strategy - and get it NOW. ISVs and software vendors also should take a good, long look at being in the financing business - offer customers multiple, flexible ways to pay for their software. The more flexible, the better.

Truly Agile Development. A few years ago offshoring development was all the rage, but now some of the same companies that were early adopters of offshoring are bringing their development efforts back in-house. Why? Productivity. It's sort of the same model that I've seen with folks who are trying to re-develop their aging software in .NET. They throw a bunch of money and resources at it - and because .NET is so complex and has so many moving parts - almost 100% of the time these projects miss their deadlines and budgets by a mile.

While that may be somewhat acceptable during "flush" times - that kind of nonsense will come to a grinding halt. The needs of the business don't change - and I would even argue that as competition heats up - time frames compress and business needs even grow larger. The need to preserve market position, the need to grow the customer base, the need to be ever more responsive to the needs of the marketplace, etc.

The companies that figure out how to do agile development that actually delivers value in a timely fashion will thrive. Those that don't won't.

Projects With Measurable ROI. Gone are the days of "someday" ROI. Gone are the days of "squishy" ROI. Now, as in the last downturn, companies are struggling with budgeting decisions and only those projects that can demonstrate measurable ROI will get funded. By measurable ROI I mean - "How much will that project deliver to my Q1 profitability?" or "How much in hard dollar (yen, euro, pound) savings can we count on by June?"

It's even more important to have not only measurable targets for increased productivity, decreased staffing needs or other metrics - but software vendors and consultants will have to commit to the "when" question as well. "WHEN can we see those savings?" That's going to put pressure on developers and consultants to be able to actually deliver what they say - on time and on budget.

Apple. Even though their stock is down (along with the rest of the world) - they have a history of innovation and they just have the knack of giving people devices that work they way they should. Their hardware is "pretty" and fairly reliable. Their software - although limited only to their hardware - is pretty easy to use, while at the same time build on a robust Linux core.

They no-doubt will pimp the variations of iPod Touch models (think "nano" versions), and may even hint at a new iPhone model. Plus, with Apple, there's always the possibility of "one more thing" - something that no one has even thought about yet that they've been working on in secret for years on. That's the fun (and frustrating) thing about Apple - you just never know what they'll do next. One thing's for sure - they'll

The Losers:

Traditional Client-Server Applications. I don't mean ALL client-server applications - because, let's face it, the browser is one of the worst application delivery vehicles ever invented. The browser only solves one part of the problem - the one that has plagued companies since the dawn of time: deployment. Specifically, deployment of traditional client-server applications.

You know, the ones that has a client you have to install on every single separate client computer. The ones where you have a "dumb" server and a "heavy client" that does most of the heavy lifting... those things will become deader than a doornail.

Does this mean that native client applications (ones that run outside the browser) will die completely. No way in hell. There are applications that simply demand they be native client applications (ones that talk to the serial port for scanners, bar code readers, cash drawers, or that have to access local files or other shared resources).

"Thin" will be "in". Thin, native clients that load quickly but still have native user interface elements and that don't rely on the Internet to be "up" will always have a place in business. In 2009, IT managers, software vendors and ISVs will be looking for tools like Servoy that can deliver the best of both worlds - while at the same time meets their needs for on-time, on-budget development.

.NET Deployments. I know, it's sort of an oxymoron - but .NET is seen as a more agile technology especially with companies with large scale COBOL applications or who are struggling under the weight of proprietary C++ applications that are crying out for updates.

The sheer speed of the changes in business and the ever-increasing need for ISVs and software companies to meet the needs of their stressed-out, under-funded, over-worked customers will be the determining factor in their own survival. I've never personally seen any .NET deployment that is able to be adapted quickly and efficiently to the changing needs of business (if you have - please feel free to comment!).

Offshoring. If you've made it this far in this post - you'll know the reasons why. I do have some personal experience with this - and even though workers here "charge more" than programmers and companies in "developing nations" - the results speak for themselves. I've talked to several companies who are scrapping their entire offshore operations and bringing them back in-house.

One manager I know from a major company (who asked not to be named) summed it up pretty well: "I found out that adding 65 people to our project (for the price of 9 US-based folks) - wasn't all it was cracked up to be. They would say 'yes, yes, yes' to everything but nothing would ever get done. It looks like most of the stuff they've worked on for the past 2 years will have to be re-written from scratch here." DOH!

Sun. And, last but not least, I'm afraid Sun will have to take some drastic actions in 2009 in order to continue their operations. Their $1 billion purchase of MySQL this year (as well as the tanking market for high-end servers) has seemed to take a huge toll on the company's balance sheet, forcing them to layoff 6,000 workers.

They're still struggling with finding a business model for their open source initiatives, and I'm not sure they'll find the answers they need in 2009. They've already open-sourced most of their products (Solaris, Java, MySQL, Java FX, etc) and now that they've done that they are finding it hard to put the Genie back in the bottle and make money off of their technology. Short of becoming an uber consulting and support company - I'm not convinced they will be around to see 2010.

Well, there you have it - my predictions for 2009. This time next year I'll make sure to review them and also make some other BS predictions for 2010...

No comments:

Web Analytics