The future is now: Q&A with CEO Ken McElrath
As 2017 kicks off, we sat down with Skuid founder and CEO, Ken McElrath, to get his take on where enterprise tech trends took us in 2016 – and where they’re headed this year.
How did the enterprise app landscape evolve in 2016?
The old guard has finally woken up to the cloud. Those who once trash-talked the cloud have now made cloud-only commitments. The transition has happened so fast it’s spinning heads. Last year old-guard sales reps told customers that cloud solutions were not secure and “vapor.” This year they’re telling customers that cloud is the only way to go.
As a result, it feels like the big four have been on an acquisition binge to catch up and take cloud market share. While the big acquisitions seem to get most of the press, the enterprise SaaS landscape has quietly continued to expand dramatically. Even with consolidation, the number of new SaaS companies continues to double. All these choices can be mind-numbing for enterprises to consider.
The overwhelming expansion of cloud platforms and apps continues to create greater fragmentation in the enterprise. We’ve seen many customers seeking to reign in the proliferation of one-off apps and add-ons, consolidating to a core set of applications based on ease of integration. This trend has played well for Skuid, as we solve much of the fragmentation problem by helping enterprises “defrag” their data sources, user interface, and user experience without writing any code.
What, if anything, surprised you about enterprise tech in 2016?
The biggest surprise for me continues to be the number of big dollar acquisitions of legacy cloud platforms and vertical apps, most of which need massive refactoring to compete with new companies entering their space. I understand that buying customers and intellectual property could deliver potential value to an acquirer, but I have doubts about whether the acquirers can actually integrate and capitalize on those acquisitions. In most cases, the acquisitions serve to further fragment the stack of the acquirer. I wonder if they’ll deliver greater value to customers while holding off nimbler competitors.
What tech trends should enterprise leaders be on the lookout for in 2017?
Artificial intelligence (AI) has been hot for 30 years, and won’t be going away anytime soon. I’m a bit cynical about it, as AI that appeared magical in 1990 is table stakes today, like optical character recognition. Still, the race to the next magical AI marker will bring some sizzle to otherwise stale platforms. It will be fun to watch what Google, Apple, and others come up with next, and the speed at which everyone else copies them.
My favorite trend-watch has been the aggressive virtualization and abstraction of everything—from serverless computing and containers to the continued elimination of redundant, busy work code. Skuid is at the heart of this trend and I think it will do more to democratize, humanize, and personalize human-machine interactions than any trend during my lifetime.