Earlier this year, I was part of a team at Gartner that took a futuristic view of the data center, in a scenario-planning exercise. The results of that work have been published as The Future of the Data Center Market: Four Scenarios for Strategic Planning (Gartner clients only). My blog entries today are by my colleague, project leader Joe Skorupa, and provide a glimpse into this research. See the introduction for more information.
Scenarios are defined by the 4 quadrants that result from the intersection of the axes of uncertainty. In defining our scenarios we deliberately did not choose technology-related axes because they were too limiting and because larger macro forces were potentially more disruptive.
We focused on exploring how the different external factors outlined by the two axes would affect the environment into which companies would provide the products and services. Note that these external macro forces do contain technological elements.
The vertical axis describes the role and relevance of technology in the minds of the consumers and providers of technology while the horizontal axis describes availability of resources – human capital (workers with the right skill set), financial capital (investments in hardware, software, facilities or internal development) or natural resources, particularly energy — to provide IT. The resulting quadrants describe widely divergent possible futures.
- The “Tech Ration” Scenario
- This scenario describes the world in 2021 that is characterized by severely limited economic, energy, skill and technological resources needed to get the job done. People view technology as they used to think of the telephone – as a tool for a given purpose. After a decade of economic decline, wars, increasingly scarce resources and protectionist government reactions, most businesses are survival-focused.
Key Question: What would be the impact of a closed-down, localized view of the world on your strategic plans?
- The “Tech Pragmatic” Scenario
- This scenario presents a similar world of limited resources but where people are highly engaged with IT and it forms a key role in their lifestyles. Social networks and communities evolved over the decade into sources of innovation, application development and services. IT plays a major role in coordinating and orchestrating the ever-changing landscape of technology and services.
Key Question: Will your strategy be able to cope with a world of limited resources but the need for agility to meet user demands?
- The “Tech Fashion” Scenario
- This scenario continues the theme where the digital natives’ perspectives have evolved to where technology is an integral part of people’s lives. The decade preceding 2021 saw a social-media-led peace, a return to economic growth, and a flourishing of technology from citizen innovators. It is a world of largely unconstrained resources and limited government. Businesses rely on technology to maximize their opportunities. However, consumers demand the latest technology and expect it to be effective.
Key Question: How will a future where the typical IT consumer owns multiple devices and expects to access any application from every one of their devices affect your strategic planning?
- The “Tech Gluttony” Scenario
- This scenario continues in 2021 with unconstrained resources where people view technology as providing separate tools for a given purpose. Organizations developed situation-specific products and applications. Users and consumers view their technology tools as limited life one-offs. IT budgets become focused on integrating a constantly shifting landscape of tools.
Key Question: Does a world of excessive numbers of technological tools from myriad suppliers change your strategic planning?
The four scenario stories each depicts the journey to and a description of a plausible 2021 world. Of course the real future is likely to be a blend of two or more of the scenarions. To gain maximum value, you should treat each story as a history and description of the world as it is. To gain maximum benefit suspend disbelief, immerse yourself in the story, and take time to reflect on the implications for your business and enter into discussion on what plans would be most beneficial as the future unfolds.
ObPlug: Of course, Gartner analysts are available to assist in deriving specific implications for your business and formulating appropriate plans.
Earlier this year, I was part of a team at Gartner that took a futuristic view of the data center, in a scenario-planning exercise. The results of that work have been published as The Future of the Data Center Market: Four Scenarios for Strategic Planning (Gartner clients only). My blog entries today are by my colleague, project leader Joe Skorupa, and provide a glimpse into this research.
As a data center focused provider, how do you formulate strategic plans when the pace and breadth of change makes the future increasingly uncertain? Historical trends and incremental extrapolations may provide guidance for the next few years, but these approaches rarely account for disruptive change. Many Gartner clients that sell into the data center requested help formulating long-range strategic plans that embrace uncertainty. To assist our clients, a team of 15 Gartner from across a wide range of IT disciplines employed the scenario-based planning process to develop research about the future of the data center market. Unlike typical Gartner research, we did not focus on 12-18 month actionable advice; we focused on potential market developments/disruptions in the 2016-2021 timeframe. As a result its primary audience is C-level executives that their staffs that are responsible for long-term strategic planning. Product line managers and competitive analysts may also find this work useful.
Scenario-based planning was adopted by the US Department of Defense in the 1960s and the formal scenario-based planning framework was developed at Royal Dutch Shell in the 1970s. It has been applied to many organizations, from government entities to private companies, around the world to identify major disruptors that could impact an organization’s ability to maintain or gain competitive advantage. For this effort we used the process to identify and assess major changes in social, technological, economic, environmental and political (STEEP) environments.
These scenarios are told as stories and are not meant to be predictive and the actual future will be some subset of one or more of the stories. However, they provide a basis for deriving company-specific implications and developing a strategy to enable your company to move forward and adapt to uncertainty as the future unfolds. Exploring alternative future scenarios that are created by such major changes should lead to the discovery of potential opportunities in the market or to ensure the viability of current business models that may be critical to meeting future challenges.
To anchor the research, we focused on the following question (the Focal Issue) and its corollary:
Focal Issue: With rapidly changing end-user IT/services needs and requirements, what will be the role of the data center in 2021 and how will this affect my company’s competitiveness?
Corollary: How will the role of the data center affect the companies that sell products or services into this market?
The next post describes the scenarios themselves.