Web services are next IT storm, Forrester CEO says

Forrester Research Inc. Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) George Colony on his first visit to Hanover, Germany, stepped on familiar territory, proclaiming Web services will be the next big thing in IT.

A new “technology thunderstorm hits every five to nine years and we are due one now,” Colony said in a keynote address Monday at the ICT World Forum, a conference preceding the CeBIT technology tradeshow here.

The storm upon us is a big, three-part one, according to Colony. With Web services at the core, it will spawn the “XInternet,” an executable and extended Internet, and “Organic IT,” easily linkable IT systems, he said.

To cut confusion about Web services, Colony provided a definition: “Web services are not the Web and not services, but Internet middleware enabling you to link to customers, partners and operating groups.”

The XInternet is an Internet that does not send back “dead pages” when a user makes a request, but sends an executable that allows a user to interact with a Web site. For example, when a user looks for information on how to implement a new human resources procedure, what comes back are implementation and training tools.

“The Web is dead and will be replaced by an executable architecture,” Colony said.

The XInternet is also extended. Today about 500 million devices are connected, by the end of the decade there will be billions of connected devices, including cars, phones and many other electronic devices, Colony said.

Organic IT will replace today’s fragmented IT infrastructure inside companies with connected environment. “Organic IT is cheaper, shareable and flexible,” Colony said.

Linux, the open-source operating system, is a strong Organic IT technology and companies can be organic on the software side today, with other technologies in networking and storage emerging. IBM Corp.’s autonomic computing initiative is a good example, Colony said.

Companies have to take advantage of the storm as “the fog of recession clears,” Colony said. Beware not to make the same mistake many did at the height of the boom, which is buying technology and then not adapting to it and essentially letting it sit unused, something Forrester calls “naked technology.”

“If you inject technology into your company without (changing) processes and how you organize, you injected naked technology,” Colony said. “In 2000, you had a lot of companies injecting CRM (customer relationship management) software, but they did not change the way they work. They got lower return on investment, endangered good process, brought the CFO (chief financial officer) out of his cave, poisoned the delicate CEO-technology relationship, and shortened the life expectancy of the CIO (chief information officer).”

Adding another word of caution, Colony said IT staff, marketers and business people within a company have to work together to make IT investments pay off.

“It is a collaboration game between the T-shirts, the turtlenecks and the ties. This is very hard to do and it will almost always take the CEO saying: You will collaborate.”