Next Generation


Next generation is a topic that often comes up in a major technology transformation. Rather than put the same old product on a new platform, many elect to start from a fresh slate, asking themselves what can I do in this new technology paradigm and more importantly what will my customers need in the future?

We are often faced with having to explain to our customers why they should be interested in the new infrastructure option and it is a very valid question. The benefit may be in a lower cost or generally better performance, but those arguments do not differentiate against any other solution having made the same infrastructure decisions. Justification based on cost alone often doesn’t serve to maintain strong product margins either. When we fully embrace and incorporate the potential of a new platform or paradigm, we are no longer forced to compare the old versus the new, as the new offers business benefits that were not technically feasible or economically viable with the old.

Cloud computing is an example of a technology transformation that can have significant next generation implications. Migrating and existing on premise solution on to cloud infrastructure may offer cost and performance benefits, but it will not differentiate. Starting form a clean slate and fully embracing Platform-as-a-Service and what the platform, as well as the platform ecosystem, can enable in a next generation sense will lead to more compelling value promises and true thought leadership. Cloud in itself isn’t transformational. Virtualization and Software-as-a-Service licensing models have been around for quite a while. It is what we do on it that can be.

Big data is one of those terms that really means nothing or pretty much anything. In multi-tenant environments we generate vast quantities of data that can be easily mined and analyzed across the whole population of customer accounts. Data privacy and proprietary nature of data in certain industries may cause concern, but if we only analyze a higher level sanitized abstraction of the data with large enough populations these concerns should not be an issue. Benchmarks can be of great value as they tell us how we are performing in relation to our peers. Adding layers and streams of additional data can further enhance the value of our core data set. When we apply analytics to the data we can generate deeper and more valuable insight. Statistical analysis can help us predicts outcomes and analysis of outcomes can enable systems to prescribe action.

Mobility really became a factor with 4G speeds and the proliferation of smartphones and slates. Next generation services must account for a mobile workforce. Mobility often leads to a reassessment of the user interface. This is in line with the general ‘applification’ trend in software solutions. Some take the approach of mobile first and in cases mobile only.

Gameification has become prevalent in social networking. In an enterprise context gamification starts with enablement of collaboration. Collaboration evolves into social enterprise. When we add e-leaning to the mix we have the base ingredients for gamification. Here is a great article on gamification in and enterprise context: http://www.hcamag.com/opinion/get-your-employees-off-the-bench-and-in-the-game-178027.aspx

We never really start from a clean slate, as we have legacy and/or open source code libraries. The first build is a minimum viable product (MVP) that is good enough to compete with market entrants and forms a platform for a modular development roadmap executed through agile sprints. Modules can be included in the core price of the solution or can be add-on in nature. They can be functionality, content or services. With next generation services offerings we need to think through average revenue per user (ARPU) and maximizing reoccurring profit, rather than revenue. The difference is that in maximizing revenues we are focused on top line sales and in maximizing profit we also pay attention to delivery performance. Modularization often leads to e-commerce and in product discovery. Opening the platform to third parties rounds it off as an ecosystem content platform.

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