Parts 1 and 2 of my blog series, “My First Epiphany of 2015,” focused on my thoughts about a recent experience at the IDC Directions 2015 event in Boston. After reviewing key concepts and the potential of disruptive technologies and innovation accelerators from the 3rd platform in Part 1, I focused on services aspects, key trends, and opportunities in Part 2.

During the event, I had the great fortune of meeting with Gard Little, research director of IT consulting and system integration research at IDC. Gard shared some great insights on where we are headed as he launches a new program for IDC supporting professional services opportunities on the 3rd platform.

Fred Isbell: The 3rd platform has begun to – and will continue to – shift the solutions landscape. Gard, what are the most profound changes you expect to see in our industry? How will they impact professional services firms and integrators?

Gard Little: I see two major areas being affected:

  • Substitution of software for consulting and human labor. An example of this is Dell’s Boomi for integration services. Its net impact will push humans more towards the front end of services cycle (planning) or the back end (support and project renewal or renovation).
  • Increase in crowdsourcing smaller packets of work to independent contractors who will compete to be selected. This will create more complex “teams” that need to be integrated and orchestrated by the prime contractor of a project.

Fred Isbell: How does the 3rd platform change the nature of professional services and integration engagements with customers? Can we expect further change in the solutions and services landscape? How will this transform how companies deliver their expertise and consulting or integration services for projects driven by shifts in the underlying technology?

Gard Little: We believe that the impact will be twofold:

  • Customers bring their experience with consumer electronics into the mix and are demanding faster, cheaper projects. As a result, consultants and systems integrators (SSI) need to have a solid enterprise architecture framework in place to make sure all individual projects can be integrated into a larger whole.
  • Customers will expect more automation in how consulting and systems integration (C&SI) projects are sold to them. For example, customers don’t want them using the cloud to deliver services. C&SI sales and business development professionals need to determine which services can be sold online and how to make sure digital channels complement the traditional sales cycle.

Fred Isbell: You discussed a new “framework” at this year’s IDC Directions for viewing professional services firms and integrators that provide cloud-related services. Please explain your observation and how this segmentation will enable firms to meet customer needs.

Gard Little: Basically, the first two columns — Offering and Go-to-Market (GTM) — show changes that I believe vendors will most likely make to meet the needs of their customers.

All three types of players – pure-play consultants, 3rd platform natives, and solution providers – will have to adapt. Those native to the 3rd platform will have minimal changes to make, but more will be required for pure-play consulting and solutions providers. And while more partnering will be expected for the first two class of players, we’ll see increased use of automated and digital mediums for selling by solution providers.

Likewise, we’ll see a mix of business strategy. Pure-play consultants will emphasize the transformational aspects of engagements. Solution providers will have a broader approach to their ecosystem and orchestration efforts. And those players already native to the 3rd platform will grow and expand from their current positions.

Fred Isbell: Gard, you were quoted at IDC Directions Boston saying, “Winners work while losers wait.” Can you please elaborate?

Gard Little: Vendors have some say when determining a cloud-centric future for their organization. So it’s important to not wait for others to act. Rather, you must push forward with your own plans.

I gave several key recommendations in my session at IDC Directions 2015:

  • Companies have an agenda in this change. This affects the input they give on how it will unfold for them and their customers.
  • Have a sense of urgency. Don’t be paralyzed – you need to act now.
  • Be more proactive in what you want your organization to be. The future is not written in stone (yet). It’s more like wet concrete – so change it while you can!

Fred Isbell: During his opening keynote for IDC Directions 2015, Frank Gens, chief analyst for IDC, cited that the 3rd platform will dominate IT spending by 2020 and will become the main enabler for the majority of projects, new solutions, innovations. Looking forward into your crystal ball, which major themes do you think your IDC Directions session will cover in March 2020?

Gard Little: If I’m lucky enough to be at IDC and presenting at Directions 2020, I’m guessing that two themes will be:

  • Which 2nd platform vendors made it to the 3rd platform and survived – and which did not
  • The six innovation accelerators that made a material difference in project spending in the C&SI space

As you noted, Fred, the Internet of Things (IoT) was quite ubiquitous at IDC Directions this year. My current hypothesis is that while the IoT is white-hot now, it will generate less long-term spending on C&SI than what we will see from cognitive systems. Stay tuned to find out!

Thanks, Gard, for your time. We look forward to the exciting times ahead in our journey to the 3rd platform and the adoption of new innovations!

Gard Little is research director of the IT Consulting and System Integration Research Program at IDC. He is responsible for subscription and custom research around system integration and consulting services worldwide. This program covers a broad range of IT-related markets – from consulting and integration to enterprise application services and infrastructure optimization. As lead analyst for IDC’s Cloud Services: The Professional Services Opportunity program, Gard conducts research on customer demand and vendor offerings for project-based services related to building and implementing cloud services. Gard earned his MBA from Northeastern University with a concentration in high-technology firms and holds an undergraduate degree from Vassar College in cognitive science.

Fred Isbell is senior marketing director for SAP Services & Support Marketing for Thought Leadership, Demand Management, and Planning for the worldwide Services & Support Marketing team. A 15-year veteran of SAP, he formerly led SAP Global Services Marketing Field Engagement, the North American SAP Services regional marketing team and SMB Channels Marketing for the SAP Small and Midsize Business team. Prior to SAP, he held a variety of senior solutions, services, and partner marketing roles with Compaq and Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). Fred is an honors graduate of Yale University with a BA in Economics and Political Science, and has an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, where he was a Fuqua Scholar.