Ten IT Trends to Watch in 2011

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5. Legacy modernization delivers much-sought ROEI: Time marches on. But when your coffee gets cold, you don't throw it out. You top it off to warm it up, right? Most of the so-called legacy applications in enterprises today have been serving the needs of the business for a decade or more, and in my calendar, they are assets, not liabilities. Throwing them out is both costly and perilous. In 2011, attention should be paid to legacy modernization approaches that allow you to do more than simply reface application interfaces. Look for incremental enhancements to existing applications that leverage the possibilities for better user experiences without sacrificing operational integrity and without tossing away your past investments. Get full return on existing investments (ROEI).

6. The year of the better service level agreement (SLA): With all of the growth in cloud computing and third-party services, IT departments need to develop an understanding that SLAs are more than just fine print. A good SLA outlines the way that your enterprise interacts with IT vendors and service providers. In 2011, take time to review and improve both existing and new SLAs with an eye towards improving the level and quality of support and service provided. If you are not provided an adequate SLA, look elsewhere.

7. Graphical user interfaces get richer; maybe too much so: On one level, we will continue to see developers responding to users' demands for applications that look better. In this regard, 2011 will be a year when some enterprise software developers may indeed go too far in the direction of impressive graphics at the expense of real transactional and business functionality.

8. Better performance comes to rich business applications: On another level, we will see continued improvement in rich business applications that not only look better and are browser-free, but also perform better. The trend towards social media on the Web is a good parallel. The real paradigm shift was not about multimedia; multimedia has been available for years. The real paradigm shift in social media was in the way people interacted with the Web, which was a shift from media consumption to media sharing with peers and the world. Rich business applications will continue to emerge in 2011 that provide unparalleled levels of information transaction and sharing. Many companies will also continue to see RIA as the first big step on the way to the cloud.

9. Drowning in data, enterprises turn to BI: All of these trends continue to drown businesses and their employees and management in a vast sea of data. How do you make sense of it? What are the key indicators? Where are the trends? In 2011, business intelligence will stretch further into mobile devices than ever before. This will occur not so much through new technologies as through new adoptions. More and more IT departments will acquire business intelligence capabilities in 2011. As BI becomes more of a commodity, be especially careful to look for value.

10. Multi-tier architecture delivers the keys to integration: Ultimately, you need a way to combine the benefits from all of these trends. This can be supported by a multi-tier architecture that incorporates the application platform, integration layer and business intelligence layer. I expect to see more businesses in 2011 looking towards a strategy that leverages multi-tier architecture. Smart IT departments will once again seek value in such a platform. This requires a viewpoint towards total-cost impact and not simply a focus on infrastructure costs. The human element will continue to be the major source of costs for IT departments. Choosing a multi-tier architecture that doesn't require an army of IT personnel or a horde of outside consultants to maintain it will make the most sense.

In all these decisions, I recommend handling problems and opportunities in the same way: deal with them incrementally in a manner that controls costs and reduces risks. All the while, remember that the purpose of change is to align IT capabilities with business goals.

Regev Yativ is President and CEO of Magic Software Enterprises Americas (www.magicsoftware.com)

This story, "Ten IT Trends to Watch in 2011" was originally published by Computerworld.

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