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.