It's now estimated that 90 per cent of the world's data was created over the last two years. That's a staggering figure.
All this data needs managing - the energy, storage space and networks required to process it are one thing, doing something with the data is another. Technology is everywhere and organisations needs to keep up with the latest trends to ensure investment strategies are not out of joint with the information economy.
Here's some of the top technology challenges we think top managers, business investors and IT teams should look at in 2013 and over the next few years.
1. Cloud Computing
Cloud computing - the use of resources from distributed servers to perform computing needs, essentially infrastructure as a service - has been gaining momentum, particularly in the SaaS environment. Organisations are quickly realising the value in cutting costs through monthly subscriptions to software, rather than outright purchasing it and having it become obsolete.
Cloud Computing is beneficial in many ways:
- Time to market is significantly reduced;
- Overall cost savings in maintenance costs from having business-owned servers to maintain. Cloud computing services also have a much higher guarantee for up-time that a smaller company running its own servers usually cannot match.
- Organizations can cut software licensing and administrative costs through utilising online services in the cloud, such as SharePoint, Exchange Server, and Office Communications Server.
2. Online applications
Online applications (also known as software as a service) that only require connectivity are becoming increasingly available . The benefit of online applications is a decreased cost in maintenance of applications, including licensing. Utilising online applications eliminates the need to install applications on the user's computer, saves from having to purchase the full software program, and reduces the time to market.
According to RBC Capital Markets it is expected to be 23% of $120B US software market. Part of the reason for this significant presence of online applications usage is that not only do they save money; they minimise the need to invest in new software versions and upgraded packages.
3. Social networks and software
Social networks services (SNS) are a dynamic way to engage customers and find out their interests through using the power of human connectivity and new tools to connect with all your stakeholders. They can be a powerful professional ally to businesses — specifically independent entrepreneurs and smaller companies, for whom each new personal connection is a significant business building block.
Creating personal connections is the first step in establishing reputability, trust, and building business relationships. Used properly, contacts gained from SNS are possible connections to future clients or business endeavors. It also creates the sense of community within the social networks themselves in relation to the business.
For those businesses that are already established social networking tools can be used to allow online chatter and user interaction about topics that are relevant to your business improves trust and shows that your company has a genuine interest in what users care about.
4. Document Management and Collaboration
Being able to organise documents in central areas where they can be found easily is key to document management and collaboration.
Organizations are frequently facing the need to efficiently organise data and make it accessible when and where it is needed. Collaboration portals create the ability for businesses to exchange data between partners and services by providing quicker and easier access to data resources.
By implementing document management, organisations are able to manage their documents effectively, making the data more accessible. Businesses that have significant amounts of information to sift through benefit greatly from document management and collaboration since it saves time and cuts cost by simplifying searches for obtaining the right information at the right time.
5. CRM 2.0
CRM 2.0 emphasises using internet capabilities to manage customer relationships effectively. Interactions with customers the way they want to interact with you is essential to maintaining customer loyalty.
The key aspect in communicating to the customer is to know how they want to be communicated to. CRM has more so become a useful tool by allowing a more holistic approach for discerning customer needs. Essentially, this means having a dialogue with the customer and truly hearing what they want, while having information resources to find solutions that meet their needs on an individual level.
An example of a business utilising the CRM 2.0 approach is Dell through IdeaStorm.com. Visitors to the site are able to suggest and vote on new concepts that they have interest in and have a way to communicate with both Dell as well as fellow consumers with related interests.
6. Unified Communications
CRM historically has not been implemented effectively. However, organisations are now recognising the importance of unified communications as tools that provide a competitive and collaborative edge in the marketplace by uniting the workforce and staying in communication. Instant messaging and web conferencing tools are becoming evermore present as communication tools in work environments that are not always conducive to on-site meetings.
Instant messaging tools also allow staff to communicate information quickly as well as to collaborate on projects. Customer service representatives are also increasingly utilising instant messaging tools, since it is much easier to answer multiple queries at a time while still being able to provide the customer with the answers they need.
What are the benefits of unified communications?
A significant increase in communication is the more obvious benefit, but the business benefit is an increase in identity and presence. Being able to contact the right person at the right time can have a significant impact on whether future communication will be possible or welcomed. Some features of unified communications include the ability to:
- Transition seamlessly between email, IM, voice, and video conversations
- Deliver email/voicemail/fax into a single inbox
- “Anywhere access” from Mobile Devices
- Use a familiar Outlook experience on mobile devices (Exchange ActiveSync, OWA, OVA)
- Provide “VPN-less” access to e-mail, IM and SharePoint
- Collaborate with audio/video/web conferencing from within the Office
- Bring together geographically dispersed teams
7. Web 2.0 to Web 3.0
The continuous evolution of internet technologies and interactions is the basis surrounding Web 2.0 to 3.0. intelligent applications create a richer interaction with customers and potential customers.
Web 2.0 to 3.0 will transform the web as we know it by completely changing the interaction that customers have with data. Online social networks offer a valuable interaction between different ends of the business spectrum, allowing for exchanges in dialogue between business to business, business to customer, and customer to customer. Although social networking is a primary aspect of Web 2.0 to 3.0, providing an overall richer engagement extends to providing an interactive exchange of dialogue on the website itself. For example, RSS feeds and “Share” buttons on websites allow users to interact with the content to customise the website, aiding in a helpful user experience.
8. Business Intelligence
Business intelligence allows organisations to provide business insights to their employees, leading to better, faster, more relevant decisions.
Over the past decade, business intelligence has seen much growth as a top technology trend, which is largely due to the fact that CIOs and IT leaders are increasingly recognising the value of insight when making important decisions.
Through sound data, personal and team insight as well as right corporate decisions, business intelligence can have a solid impact on company prosperity. Integrating predictive analytics within applications while building next generation user experiences is key in that it allows a company to advance through measuring elements of business that can be improved. It is also important for businesses to keep in mind that it is more than likely that their competitors are utilising business intelligence tools. Not taking advantage of available data mining technologies can be detrimental to maintaining a competitive edge.
9. Virtualisation / Green IT
Virtualisation concerns moving physical servers to virtual ones. This shift allows users to use just one piece of hardware to support multiple systems. Virtualisation is also part of Green IT, because by using less hardware you are using less energy through server consolidation.
Availability is also one of the most important elements when it comes to a data centre, making the reliability of trusted virtualisation vendors such as Microsoft and VMware a potential means of cutting costs, saving money, and reducing energy usage.
Virtualised servers can be a great way to cut costs, but also come with some concern in terms of security. If you have confidential data on servers that are outside your facility, it can cause some concern, especially for financial businesses. Some of the well-known brands of virtualised servers include Microsoft, IBM, HP, and RackSpace.
With more services and vendors appearing each year, it can be tricky to find out which are the best choices and why is virtualisation an important technology trend.
10. Enterprise Mobility
Enterprise mobility enables a workforce to have instant access to information through mobile applications anywhere, anytime. People are fundamentally changing the way they work, and in order to remain competitive, organizations are making enterprise applications accessible through mobile devices
To remain competitive, organisations are making enterprise applications accessible from mobile devices. Accessibility to data is essential, especially as Blackberries and iPhones increase in usage.
By allowing mobile, instant communication and access to important information to a workforce, enterprise mobility improves productivity through providing the information the moment it is needed. With the continual increase of companies utilising mobile applications to improve customer responsiveness and worker productivity, it is essential to evolve your business into the next generation of technology usage.
Predicting Technology Trends
People are at the heart of any technology - so it must be robust, simple to use and adaptable. Mobile technology is becoming increasingly popular as an instant way to keep in contact with friends, family and colleagues - you can almost attach the handheld device to the person who is using it. That makes marketing of products and services via mobile devices a powerful tool in how online markets are developing - services and infrastructure need to support this business model.