Thoughts from the Gartner Application Strategies & Solutions Summit 2019

Baby dragon on a branch

It was a pleasure to attend another terrific Gartner conference in Las Vegas this month (December 2-5, 2019). And while there was an Amazon AWS conference in town the same week, the smart kids were all enjoying the Gartner show. 

So, what we’d like to do is break down the key messaging that we got from the conference, based on the tracks that we followed, and provide our point of view on what we think this will mean out in the real world. 

So here we go: Gartner’s key messaging from December 2019.

This is the last decade of applications

In the same way that dinosaurs once ruled the world, all good things come to an end one day. And so it is with the lengthy, and ultimately unsatisfying, era of the application. Gartner has now given notice that IT departments need to start to ween themselves off of building applications, and that in 10 years the gig is over, and everyone needs to learn new roles. 

Hint: Better to start that move now than wait until the last minute. AI, the Composable Enterprise, and Conversational UI’s are the ways of the future (that is already part of the present today).  

Evolve or perish and fly

One of the things we love about Gartner is that they always put a positive spin on things. This is one of the reasons their conferences are always fun. So instead of telling people they’d better evolve or go the way of the T.Rex, instead they highlighted the positive aspect. That evolution is an opportunity, and not something to be feared. The messaging was that the new era we are entering is an opportunity for organizations to sprout feathers, shrink their size, and learn to fly. 

Instead of vast teams of developers building code (and technical debt), we will see the emergence of experience designers, process stewards, and knowledge curators. No code solutions will be the way of the future, which, in turn, means no need for coders. 

Hint: People with business and process knowledge will rule the new roost.

Don’t acquire technical debt

What have we always been told by our parents? “Don’t’ jump out of the frying pan and into the fire”. The move to the Cloud was supposed to be an opportunity for organizations to shed technical debt and move to a more streamlined model. The advent of AI, if not managed correctly, will be the dawn of a new era of organizations amassing more technical debt than ever before in a mad rush to keep up with the Jones’s. 

Building AI solutions that have already been built is not a good idea. Building a brain for your Enterprise isn’t easy. The cost is astronomical and involves a maintenance commitment that very few organizations can support. Gartner recommends that organizations look carefully into various vendor solutions to determine what is available “off the shelf”. 

Hint: if you want a better car than your next door neighbor, it’s easier to lease one than go to the time and expense of creating your own car factory, and assembly line, and building one yourself. 

Use “downloadable workers”

So, while creating your own “worker” from hand using various development tools seems like a lot of fun, and was undoubtedly the focus at the Amazon AWS conference (cue the “Weird Science” jokes), Gartner rightly states that you shouldn’t try to reinvent the most complex wheel imaginable: the human brain. Instead, Gartner predicts a future of “downloadable workers”. A “downloadable worker” is a chatbot/digital assistant that has already been created by someone else (and which, if done right, took them years to do). It comes delivered with all the skills needed to operate in your Enterprise and can also typically speak many different languages. And what’s more, downloadable workers don’t call in sick, don’t take any time off, and can handle millions of conversations at tiny fractions of the price of actual humans. 

This checks all the boxes of how to do things right: “don’t build things already built”, “don’t acquire technical debt”, “don’t build things you have no clue how to build”. 

Hint: don’t buy a “downloadable worker” that is hard coded and can’t be configured. Select a middleware-created “worker”. You’ll be glad you did, and Gartner recommends that too. 

Dashboards suck!

Gartner really came down hard on the UX feature that many vendors love to push as the answer to a happy and motivated workforce. According to Gartner, dashboards are just a tool for people to “game the system” and offer almost no real value. So next time you decide to choose a new vendor for your HCM system, try picking one that supports conversational UI features (Oracle), and not one doubling down on a failed UX strategy (Workday).

Yes, instead of dashboards that look like the cockpit of a Boeing 747, extensive study has discovered that people just want Enterprise software to be easy to use (and this shouldn’t be a shock to anyone). Infusing AI into the user experience is the key to meeting that goal, and will ensure that your organization truly engages in the various systems you have spent a small fortune implementing and maintaining. 

Hint: A well created conversational UI is the answer to this goal, and what Gartner recommends. 

Tread carefully in the era of the Digital Dragon

Citing both Amazon and Alibaba as the most developed, and dangerous, “Digital Dragons” that exist today, the general advice was to tread carefully with how you engage with them. As attractive as some options my look today, they may not look so attractive when the dragons are competing with your organization and you suddenly realize you’ve invested in the demise of your own future. 

This doesn’t mean that Gartner advised to always avoid them, they just detailed various strategies that organizations may utilize such that they can grasp opportunity when it exists, but also retreat when the time comes that the opportunity has turned into a threat. 

We felt that this was such an important subject that we are currently working on a future blog dedicated to the topic. 

Hint: It may be a better long-term bet to utilize a cloud infrastructure using Oracle or Microsoft than one using Amazon AWS. 

This wraps up our summary of the Gartner conference, for now. It was a lot of fun, and we do think Gartner has a great handle on the future. If the concepts are interesting to you and you’d like to find out more, please contact us:

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