How Can We Get The ‘Star Trek’ Factor Into Enterprise IT?

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Anyone familiar with “Star Trek” knows that technology plays a central role in the science fiction franchise. On the Starship Enterprise, the onboard computer is almost a character in its own right, interacting naturally with the crew members through spoken language and thoroughly embedded in all activities like any other shipmate.

When the Romulans de-cloak off the starboard beam and prepare to attack, Mr. Spock asks the computer to divert more power to the forward shields and prepare a full spread of photon torpedoes in response. The computer does so instantly and effortlessly, casually responding, “All taken care of, Mr. Spock, is there anything else I can do for you today?”

Compare that to our own interaction with technology daily. Whether we’re communicating with a friend or colleague, making an airplane reservation, checking a bank balance, completing a purchase, or finding directions to a destination, we’re becoming increasingly dependent on a handheld device.

And while our expectations run high, we’d all probably agree we’re not having the “Star Trek technology experience.” Sure, we’ve got some voice command capabilities that work okay and some pretty cool apps, but too often our use of technology is punctuated with comments like, “My thing won’t …”

Whether it’s a laptop, a tablet, a phablet or a smartphone, we know that the majority of the activity we’re engaging in is not actually happening in our palm. It’s occurring across many systems and applications of many types in many places, delivered in a variety of ways — public clouds, private clouds, and traditional business systems. All of them are required to work together and complete their designated tasks in a coordinated fashion to fulfill our request.

Stitching all those disparate and dispersed systems together into an enterprise IT solution that delivers a seamless, transparent experience to the users — with all the quality of service and security we expect — is a tremendous challenge for many companies today. And with technology changing at warp speed, the stakes are only going to get higher: if you don’t provide those services in ways your customers want them, someone else will.

From retailers and banks to industrial companies and distribution firms, businesses across every industry are looking to provide a better client experience and improve business results by coupling systems of engagement with systems of record to create systems of insight. Over time, these converged capabilities will be able to apply even deeper analytics that will help businesses better serve customers and drive greater value for the business.

For example, by syncing up with your mobile device when you enter store, a retailer could examine your recent purchases and text you coupons and offers tailored specifically to your preferences, from the type of music you like to your favorite brand of tortilla chips. Or an airline could note your arrival at the airport and send you updates on gate information, changes in flight schedules, seating alternatives, upgrade opportunities, and discounts for future travel.

Many business leaders understand the vision of this, but there is a significant gap between that recognition and reality. According to industry analysts, as much as 75 percent of IT organizations are planning to pursue an internal IT strategy combining enterprise systems with cloud, mobile and analytics technologies this year. However, a study by IBM’s Institute for Business Value shows that less than 10 percent of organizations say their systems are fully prepared to address these technology trends.

Bridging that gap can be a major challenge, but businesses that are successfully adopting an Enterprise IT strategy considering these factors expect to see significant payoffs in the long run. Consider:

  • Leading European airline Lufthansa has the goals of increasing company value, driving profitable growth and taking an active role in shaping the aviation industry, and continually increasing customer satisfaction. Innovation and digitalization play a key role in pursuing those goals, as the air carrier optimizes its IT infrastructure. For example, with IBM’s MobileFirst device management framework, Lufthansa can provision, secure and manage mobile devices and apps easily, giving customers and employees simplified access and new capabilities for its reservation systems and business processes.
  • Whirlpool Corporation, the world’s leading manufacturer and marketer of major home appliances, is transitioning from an on-premise hosting environment to a globally integrated cloud model. By using cloud capabilities, Whirlpool can provision its applications faster and increase flexibility to integrate managed and non-managed services with future workloads. The vision for those future workloads includes things like Internet-of-Things applications, such as wireless cloud communications from commercial washing machines to the smartphones of customers and repair technicians.

We may still be a ways off from being able to say “computer, lay in a course for Alpha Centuri and accelerate engines to Warp Factor 2” and have it happen. And if we encounter the Romulans anytime soon, let’s just say things could get a little uncomfortable. But as more companies embrace an enterprise IT model, the better they’ll be able to provide the “cool apps” we all want with the reliability, security, performance and insight we expect from the technology we depend on daily.

 

Savio Ng

Savio Ng, Executive, Global Technology Services

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