Trend awareness is your window into where interesting technologies are heading. It provides you with a glimpse of the possible new disruptive technologies, business models, processes, and so on that can either give you a leg up on the competition or put you at a disadvantage.
The trend diagram in Figure 10.2 shows the typical peaks and valleys in popularity that new technologies tend to follow over time. Observing the popularity of technologies, business models, processes, and related areas can give you a good sense of what is happening in the industry at the macro scale. Companies such as Gartner, GigaOM, and Forrester Research typically gather and publish this kind of information on technology topics such as big data, mobile, gamification, and others as they start to gain critical mass and awareness.
Figure 10.2 Trend diagram
Your ability to quickly identify promising new technology trends and predict their eventual success or failure will help you avoid spending time and resources on those technologies that end up toiling in obscurity and eventual failure.
Areas of Trend Awareness
A wide variety of trends are potentially applicable to your architectural areas of responsibility and should be observed on a regular basis. These include the following:
- Industry. What are the economic conditions that affect your industry? Is it in a cycle of growth, stability, or decline? The economics that are pervasive in your industry can and will affect the degree to which you will be able to attract technology investment from the business.
- University research. What areas are universities researching that may be of interest to your business and lead to potential partnerships? Knowing what schools are doing in research areas that are of interest to your business partners can be a great source of new information and talent in the form of interns and new hires as well as an area for potential joint research projects.
- Open-source tools. What tools and technologies are gaining or declining in popularity and community support, especially those that have more business-friendly licensing arrangements? These are potential candidates for adoption if they are growing in popularity and community support or candidates for elimination or replacement if the community interest is declining.
- Conferences. Conferences can be a great way to get a quick glimpse of what the new and emerging “hot” technologies are. The presentations at these conferences can give you a jump start into background information about new technologies and some of the early experiments and results. This will help you become aware of which areas are working well and which areas are still rough around the edges and need more time and testing.
- Regulatory compliance. Being aware of the types of changes that regulatory bodies are considering can help prepare you to plan the aspects of the architecture that may need to remain flexible to account for new regulatory requirements.
- Hardware capabilities. Hardware is constantly changing. Taking the time to keep up with key vendors and their roadmaps can help you prepare for hardware that may enable better performance or less expensive solutions in the near future.
- Cloud capabilities. The area of cloud computing is evolving quickly. Understanding the capabilities provided by cloud vendors can enable elastic growth with little or no effort. The key challenges are to understand the costs and data lock-in that may be associated with the varying solutions.
- Customers’ competitive knowledge. One of the best ways to keep up with your competitors is to closely partner with your customers. They can be an excellent source of information about what your competitors are up to and what they are promoting as strategic advantages and differentiators.
- Vendor capabilities. A large number of vendors make capabilities available for a price. Some vendors are leaders in their areas of expertise. They often have a solid understanding of what others are doing and what is working well and what is not. Working with these types of vendors can be a great partnership. The key is to ensure that the value being added by the vendor is greater than the cost of using their products.
- Intellectual property. Working with your intellectual property counsel or in-house general counsel can help you keep up to speed on areas where the business may want to go after the development of patents or other intellectual property.
- E-mail alerts. Many online sources allow you to set alerts based on keywords. When you hear of a new technology or development, you can put an alert on it using the keywords associated with the technology. Then when there are new updates or recent news, you’ll be one of the first to know, which will help you consistently monitor the space.
Applying Trend Awareness
Trending information can be used as a source of guidance when you are trying to determine if a particular area is worth diving into in more detail. It can serve as an early warning that there is a technology-related change in direction that could impact the business, it can serve as an alert that there is a new opportunity for your business, or it may just serve as a confirmation that there is no cause for concern in this area, at least for now.
Remember that the rate of change may be exponential, and you should expect that things will change quickly in a given technology focus area. Your ability to check in on a regular and frequent basis will help you stay on top of the trends that signal technological changes that could impact your industry and disrupt your business.