We’re currently in the midst of a perfect storm. The major forces in IT – cloud, social, mobile and big data – are converging and changing the way we interact with everything. Welcome to the 3rd Platform.
According to research giant IDC – who coined the name – the 3rd Platform is key to the future of IT development, supplementing mainframes and distributed computing solutions, and creating ‘a revolutionary transition that will be adopted in an evolutionary way’. Everything in IT will grow from it – it’s the platform that will enable us to deliver appropriate context relevant experiences. It harnesses mobility and will change how we deliver appropriate information to users. And on the 3rd Platform, context is king.
Context is King
Context is an essential element mobile enterprises need to consider when building rich experiences for IT users. Legacy apps were usually built for the desktop computer, not the user – so context was rarely considered. But think about this – if you lack context, you lack understanding. If someone is talking to you and you don’t understand the context, it can become frustrating. If your organization wants to build towards becoming a mobile enterprise then you can’t afford to ignore the power of context.
Context gives people a purpose for being there and helps them pay attention. A conversation without context isn’t really a conversation at all – it’s one-sided, something that reflects the traditional, prohibitive nature of old IT practices. As mobility gains momentum as an IT necessity, delivering context rich, dynamic experiences becomes essential.
The Three Pillars of Context
Forward-thinking IT departments and organizations that want to deliver these kinds of services need to build the three pillars of context – situation, preference and attitude - into the experiences they construct.
When sending and receiving information to users, companies have to consider where the user is, what device they have on them, who is around them and even the speed they’re travelling.
For example, let’s imagine a user that has travelled across the country to visit one of her company’s offices. The IT department provides her with the tools she needs, so she can utilise the GPS on her phone to guide her around the building and direct her towards a wireless spot that she may have used on a previous visit.
And, if she’s anxious about being late for a meeting and is rushing around, her contextual IT experience could monitor her anxiety through external heart monitoring sensors or even through linking her calendar with her device’s GPS and accelerometer, knowing to divert calls that might cause further stress.
The Future of Business
This consideration of location, history and emotion shows how IT teams can build simple, effective experiences that take into account attitude, situational and preferential context. And the fact is, we already have much of the technology available to help us do all of these things and more.
In the future, much more can be done. Users can have personal avatars that sit in the cloud. These avatars can act as virtual guides, helping to deliver historical and social context: what did I do in this business situation in the past, and what did my friends and colleagues do in similar situations?
The Business Context
Building context sensitivity into the user experience is something that IT teams need to seriously consider and start to factor into their ongoing strategies if they want to bring their businesses into the future. The 3rd Platform is allowing users to drive the agenda – it enables them to get the apps they need without going through the IT team.
IT teams can’t risk being seen as a barrier anymore. They need to be seen as an enabler and take on a community policing role, where they advise and guide rather than rule and prohibit, helping users not to do any harm to themselves or their companies through their IT actions.
And with context, it’s not just the user that benefits – enterprises will be able to engage more deeply with partners, clients and consumers, enabling them to reveal in-depth insights that can open opportunities, both commercial and internal. It will also help businesses move towards using systems of engagement rather than systems of record – and on the 3rd Platform, these systems will further facilitate richer, deeper experiences and interactions.
Context and Mobility
IT teams that do embrace the 3rd Platform will find themselves naturally moving towards mobility and, as such, creating or supplying context rich experiences for their users. Anyone who tries to stop this is fighting a losing battle. Context is king and mobility is the horse it rode in on.