It is not uncommon to see software developers huddled down at their desks, headphones in ears, listening to music while they create complex algorithms that run the plethora of devices used today. Good quality software is music to the developer’s ears, one might say. When you read Forrester BT 2020 paper by Phil Murphy (Forrester subscription required), you wonder if there is more to this than meets the eye. Is the music ringing in the developers’ ears being transformed into a subliminal message on software development?

Music has always been effective at representing a sign of the times — think about Donna Summers’ “Working Hard for the Money,” during the time that the women started entering the work force in increased numbers. Murphy goes one step further in his analysis where he implies that the lyrics actually were indicative of the time to come! Murphy takes us through a parade of musical hits explaining how and where they have injected strategic projections of life in the software development world.

He goes back 4 decades starting with John Lennon’s “Power to the People,” equating it to consumerization of IT. We are in a world where the consumers drive the overall market behavioral patterns while procuring the services they need from the wide variety of choices they have today.

Here are the Top 10 hits in this report that have conveyed a message to the software development community over the years.  For each song, I have provided Phil’s message in the report along with my observations.

1. John Lennon’s “Power to the People”.  Phil’s message: Power is shifting into the hands of the people in subtle and revolutionary ways. My observation: Big shift to a consumer driven paradigm from a provider-centric monopoly.

2. Eagles’ “Life in the Fast Lane”. Phil’s message: Macro changes in the economic and political climate impacting IT. My observation: IT has gone through a rude awakening .. be agile and flexible and open to changing market demands.

3. Backman-Turner Overdrive’s “You Ain’t seen Nothing Yet”. Phil’s message: Ripple effects of change through the orchestra made up of business and technological instruments. My observation: Business is changing 2.5 according to David Fredrickson at the HP Master the Cloud show in Montreal .

4. Animotion’s Obsession. Phil’s message: Don’t just answer the customer’s mail. Be obsessed about them! My observation: Study your customer and get to know them closely so that you can predict their needs and provide solutions before they identify the problem.

5. Rare Earth’s Get Ready. Phil’s message: You thought we have gone through change! Brace yourself for what is coming.  My observation: IT can never really be done and call it a day!

6. Rolling Stones’ “Here comes your 19th nervous breakdown”. Phil’s message: If you don’t prepare for change, get prepared for chaos. My observation: You don’t have to wait until the 20th year in this century for your 19th breakdown. It will come much earlier.

7. Hall and Oates’ “Say it isn’t so”. Phil’s message: Not Applicable (this is my own addition).  My observation: Might as well go through a denial phase.

8. R.E.M’s “It is the End of the world as we know it”. Phil’s message:2012 will be the Stone Age for the 5-year old in 2020. My observation: Wondering what the BT 2040 authored by Forrester will look like in 2020.

9. Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready”.  Phil’s message: The Change Train is hurtling down the tracks. Light travel recommended. My observation: Gear up for change but come on board at the right time.

So, where is the 10th entry? Music is something that most of us can relate to. What would be your addition to this list? What could be the #10 entry? I am interested to know and would like to hear your ideas. Murphy contributed 8 entries. My contribution in the list above is Say it isn’t so. What is your contribution?

IT has evolved over the years. Starting with the rudimentary calculating machines and slide rules, moving on to monolithic mainframes, mini computers, PCs, client-server, GUI, object oriented, the boom & crash, Enterprise Applications, PDAs, mobile computing, cloud and life goes on.

Music has gone through an evolution as well, like IT. Starting with Mother Nature – the chirping of birds at dawn and dusk, the Nightingale à the classical opera and symphony à music getting prominence on the radio and black & white movies à Sinatra à Rock and Roll à Heavy Metal bands à Rap à synthetic, automated electronic mix of multiple generations, etc.

Makes one wonder what music will be like in 2020? Perhaps, the software developers are sending subliminal messages today and have been over the years through the applications they build. Looking forward to the Forrester Analyst in 2020 who identifies this pattern of messaging through the applications being built and assembled by the software development community.

Coming back to this Forrester BT 2020 paper, when it comes to the future of software development, Murphy’s vision is 20/20.

BT 2020: To Thrive In The Empowered Era, You’ll Need Software, Software Everywhere, Forrester Research, Inc., January 30, 2012.