In Tech’s Speeding Locomotive, Enterprise is the Engine
March 08, 2013

While consumer internet companies grab the headlines, the IPO market over the last year tells a different story. Innovative startups are exploiting massively disruptive forces now changing the face of enterprise technology. This time, the shakeup isn’t a periodic upheaval creating a new normal. This time, disruption is the new normal.

IT’s role is evolving dramatically as employees and customers armed with mobile gadgets create a BYOD culture. The smartphone is more than the six-shooter of the 21st Century; it is the new place of business.

Today’s customers function amidst ambient technology, and increasingly expect businesses to react in real time. This has huge implications for IT. As we look at the emergence of the social enterprise, much more advanced security threats, and the rise of big data, it is clear that technology no longer simply supports business. Technology is becoming indistinguishable from business. Here’s how.

The Social Enterprise

Social technologies didn’t wait to be sanctioned by the C-suite. Like the early PCs, they infiltrated the enterprise over vociferous objections, because employees couldn’t do without them. Adoption was further accelerated by customers, who demanded the same kind of engagement they were experiencing in casual online encounters.

Social technologies are being woven into the very fabric of business, changing how enterprises engage with customers, employees and partners. Enterprise IT is morphing accordingly, shifting its focus from asynchronous messaging to real-time connectivity and collaboration.

Instead of integrating applications and building adapters to connect systems, enterprises are embracing the new social reality. Using Apigee’s “API platform for the app economy,” companies like AT&T, Bechtel, Dell and Walgreen’s are changing how they expose systems and services for better customer engagement.

This “consumerization of IT” lets enterprises adapt and grow just as rapidly as the consumer internet.

Take Jive’s social business platform, which helps Blue Shield identify opportunities, improve employee engagement and increase collaboration. Executives credit it with fostering a culture shift and changing the way the insurance giant does business. Jive’s scalable solutions now provide similar capabilities to small businesses.

The New Cyber Security Challenge

The application economy and social enterprise are all about openness and access, but they expose a lot more than APIs. The explosion of mobile connected devices—from 600 million in 2011 to 1.4 billion in 2015 per IDC—has proliferated access points. So has external data sharing via cloud-based applications. And social networks provide cyber crooks with ideal social engineering environments.

The extended enterprise—with its mobility, BYOD, virtualization, cloud-based services and outsourcing—is dealing with many new vulnerabilities. The old hierarchies have been replaced with flatter structures of overlapping networks with fluid boundaries that are hard to protect.

Criminals are responding with advanced threats that can’t be contained by firewalls, signature-based malware protection, and other traditional security measures. Most companies are already compromised, and all are continually at risk.

Advanced attacks are bypassing traditional security controls and persisting undetected in systems for extended periods. “Organizations face an evolving threat scenario they are ill-prepared to deal with,” reports Gartner. Security efforts must move beyond perimeters, servers and devices, and focus more on protecting sensitive data wherever it is.

New Advanced Threat Protection technology is rising to the challenge. FireEye detects and blocks threats across web and e-mail vectors, addressing multistage attacks with signature-less technology that uses stateful attack analysis to detect zero-day threats.

Splunk’s security intelligence platform collects, indexes and harnesses large amounts of machine-generated data from security products such as FireEye, and from websites, applications, servers and networks. Splunk connects the dots across these silos, spotting advanced threats that otherwise would evade detection.

Big Data, Bigger Opportunity

The most exciting enterprise technology opportunities involve capturing and analyzing Big Data, and using it to make faster and infinitely more informed business decisions. Once harnessed, Big Data will finally fulfill the promise of the Information Age.

Fueled by social technologies, data is flooding enterprises. IDC says enterprise data increased 50% over the past year to 2.7 zetabytes, and should top 8 zetabytes by 2015. Leading-edge enterprises such as Google,, Walmart and FedEx are already exploiting this data.

Applying state-of-the-art analytics to Big Data, they are increasing revenue and margins while reducing customer fatigue. However, Big Data is not a core competency for most enterprises, so innovative startups provide such expertise via scalable, cloud-based services.

InsightsOne uses machine learning and micro-segmentation to perform much more granular and in-depth data analysis. This technology can analyze thousands of data attributes and identify hidden segments, relationships, and even personal preferences. Literally hundreds of thousands of segments can be automatically generated and applied. This enables much more precise targeting, and also uncovers hidden opportunities.

While traditional models based on one point in time generate results that degrade progressively and produce customer fatigue, the machine learning model is heuristic and stateful. Results improve over time, enabling better and better customer experiences.

Palantir’s data fusion platform sits above traditional data systems and enables queries across them. The Centers for Disease Control use it to join epidemiologic and laboratory data in real time, and enhance collaboration between federal, state and local partners. Consequently, agency executives say, tasks that used to take hours or days are completed in minutes, so the source of food borne disease outbreaks can be pinpointed more quickly.

Social technologies and Big Data are transforming IT from its supporting role to that of change agent. Walmart CIO Karenann Terrell summed things up succinctly at a recent meeting of The Churchill Club, a Silicon Valley business organization, stating, “Technology becomes the business.”

Innovative enterprise technology startups are facilitating this transformation for businesses of all types, and making it affordable for more than the very biggest.

This article originally appeared in WIRED’s Innovation Insights.

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