Our research is squarely focused on disruptive market influences-information technologies, services and providers that change how users and vendors do business. While we look at all aspects of IT and business, markets, economics, and behavior, we look most closely at how, where, and when key aspects will disrupt the status quo. This includes where the game-changing influences will come from, what their effects will be on business models, how (and when) will our clients be able to profit from them, and-most importantly-why will these truly be disruptive?
Understanding the "whys" of disruptive influences makes it much easier to understand-and to plan for-the effects of disruptions to IT and business. Simply predicting market growth, demand changes, or competitive emergence/disappearance is useful. But such typical, "reactive predictions" don't enable vendors and users to see where the next threat or opportunity is coming from in time to develop effective strategies and plans, or to begin adequate budgeting and spending to counter the threat-or to position for competitive advantage.
Why Is It Happening? It takes relatively little time for a seemingly innocuous technology, application, vendor or provider to fundamentally change how business is done. A high-demand market can grow seemingly overnight-and then stall, dip, or rebound in another direction. Saugatuck's ongoing research into disruptive IT shows how significant-and often unforeseen by vendors and users-these changes can be, and the effects they can have on any marketplace.
For example, the effects of standardized TCP/IP networking and SMTP messaging were largely unpredicted, although they created some of the largest opportunities in IT history. They also destroyed the market presence of dozens of established network and messaging vendors, along with billions of dollars of investment, while changing the ways that many fundamental business and IT products and services were developed, distributed, marketed, used and paid for.
A review of Saugatuck's own research indicates that several technologies seen recently by users and vendors as inconsequential (e.g., wireless communications, software-as-a-service, and open source software, among others) have mushroomed to become some of the most disruptive (and fastest-growing) business and IT influences in the world.
As an example, in a 2003 Saugatuck survey and interview program, more than 200 senior business and IT user executives ranked "wireless communications" at the bottom of a list of 18 technologies that they expected to influence their firms over the next five years. It's now commonplace for wireless devices, access, applications, services and security to be incorporated into every aspect of user business and IT. IT vendors and service providers are still scrambling to adjust their own offerings and business strategies. Ongoing Saugatuck research and intelligence regarding user business changes has helped us understand these changes-and the resulting impacts on vendors, markets, technologies, development, and more-and has provided useful insights for profitable opportunities for our clients.
Open source software and SaaS have been even greater disruptions, especially in established enterprise software and services markets. Both have forever-changed user software acquisition, adoption, and adaptation-and have drastically changed the game for software developers, vendors, distributors and services providers as well. Business and IT requirements for users and vendors have changed to an extent, and at such a rapid pace, that even the fastest-growing providers have yet to develop and implement consistently-profitable plans. Saugatuck research into the economy and utility of open source and SaaS-from both user and vendor business aspects-has helped our clients understand how these changes will affect their business and markets, and how they can develop these changes into competitive advantages.
Other technologies and trends that were touted just a few years ago by many as turning into significantly disruptive influences on user IT and vendor strategies (e.g., utility computing, SOA) have shown growth and influence, but have not turned user or vendor worlds upside down. In the cases of utility computing and SOA, their influences have been more subtle and less dramatic-in many ways, evolution, rather than revolution (although both technologies have revolutionary underpinnings). Rather than the wholesale architectural-level changes predicted by many, we've seen more incremental transformations, due to a wide variety of vendor and user technological and business factors. In the case of utility computing, the most recent demand has focused on the economic benefits of virtualization-although this is merely one step in a long roadmap toward the ultimate goal of the true IT utility.
On one hand, Saugatuck research shows that even though their IT platforms are ageing, users simply are not prone to swapping architectures. On the other hand, our IT and business spending research indicates that user IT and business investments have followed what we term a "tactically strategic" pattern for several years, that focuses on incremental investments that enable a series of follow-on changes and improvements. This has been a huge influence on the user adoption of utility IT and SOA among other innovations.
Market Impact: Disruptive influences will always be an important part of IT-and IT will always be a disruptive influence. However, the rate and levels of disruption will always vary. Every technology is a solution in search of a problem. Understanding the business, market, usage, and economic "whys" behind disruptions can be more important, and more useful, than understanding specific technologies. Understanding the "whys" tells us where, and often when the next disruption can be found, and allows us to plan more flexibly and effectively whether to use it, compete with it, counter it, or ignore it.
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