Something about the New Year gets people looking forward and trying to predict the future.
In the upcoming March 2011 issue of Dayton B2B Magazine, Keith Stafford will be featured as a local business leader commenting on the question:
How do you see information technology changing business in the future?
Our response to this lofty exercise is as follows:
We have moved beyond IT changing the future of business to the point where technology is the future of business.
In order to innovate and compete, companies need to shift focus from growing or updating the IT department, to instead integrating IT throughout the business. As companies encounter massive amounts of data, demands for real-time collaboration, and the blending of consumer and corporate technologies, improved business tools will continue to be key in how businesses compete and succeed. Cross-functional teams, beyond just IT, will become even more critical in creating and deploying those new tools.
In addition, growing technologies like the cloud, SharePoint, and mobile devices, along with agile methodologies and user experience practices, will be an integral part of the product lifecycle to allow teams to adapt more quickly, improve quality, and deploy faster.
In the process of formulating our official answer, I received a collection of insightful perspectives from our Technical Specialists that I wanted to share. Gaze into the SDS crystal ball below and see what you think. If you have other perspectives to add to the conversation, please let us know. I would love to see what others think.
Response: Data. For decades we've been developing systems that capture data to run our businesses. In the last 5-10 years we've seen an increase in the use of data to understand our business and create new opportunities. I believe that the use of BI tools, especially data mining technologies, will continue to grow. Think Amazon's suggestion feature. "Customers that have bought x have also purchased y."
Response: Not to mention that data gathering sensors are more available than ever before… shock sensors, distance sensors, RFID sensors… more data to gather, to analyze and generate intelligence from.
Response: Real-time access to the data being discussed (wherever the data comes from, wherever you are, however you’re connected), real-time collaboration with the involved members.
A lot of the background technologies for collaboration are already pretty much here… the biggest obstacles are either the tools (mobile phones suck for writing documents), or outdated business software.
Regarding the data being discussed, I expect more businesses to share information (such as how tracking numbers are now available from FedEx/etc)… with other businesses (impacting production schedules, etc) and with consumers.
Response: As is always the trend, employees are being tasked with higher expectations while exponentially more data is available to them at an ever quickening pace. The effective consumption of this data will be the underlying theme of those products which see growth in 3-5 years and beyond.
Accessibility & Usability
Fierce competition in the consumer mobile landscape has changed the expectations of users and increased consumer knowledge of the possibilities in computing. Consumers return to the corporate environment demanding that technology experiences be enjoyable, rewarding and direct, not the result of laborious clicking and inference amongst pages of raw information. Though our minds and bodies have adapted to the mouse, it is on its way out fast to be replaced by touch screens and natural user interfaces (and rumored to ship with the next release of Windows, gestures via the Kinect technologies). Raw data is increasingly being replaced with data visualizations which answer questions and direct action rather than simply representing trends for inference. Finally, the accessibility of these experiences and answers will be key. Those companies which can most readily present users with the answers to their questions in the most fluent mechanisms will succeed in developing a dependence on those services.
To facilitate these demands we see Cloud Computing and Services, both on-premise and hosted, allowing us to answer involved, historically expensive questions reliably and often at lower unit cost. Instead of answering more difficult problems by scaling up with more powerful hardware, developers must adapt their solutions to scale out by decomposing problems into smaller questions which can then be composed into a final answer. Google has led this trend in many ways.
With the fragmentation of device form-factors in the consumer market slowly occurring in the business environment and a significantly more mobile workforce, supporting mobile is essential. While historically considered a secondary or tertiary target, soon we will see Mobile First. Coincidentally, the more compact form factor of mobile devices demands that usability be a more prominent focus of design in contrast to devices in which real estate allows for a disorienting hodgepodge of interactions.
1. The Cloud
2. Software as a Service (SaaS)
The cloud lowers the barrier of cost and time to deliver from large corporations to small 1 man shops. Everyone can get in the game with just an idea.
SaaS lowers the barrier of marketing, advertising, and user based delivery since it resides on the Internet then anyone in the world has the potential to use it. Same as before, everyone can get in the game with just an idea. So with those two concepts competition is tough because there are so many options for potential customers and so you have to be good and you have to deliver to win. There is also product saturation as well. Everyone can make a widget organizer and with 1000 of them out there it can be hard to make everyone notice that yours is the best. In conclusion: The next level of software development is UX. That is what will create the separation from 'all of those apps' out there.
Author: Stacy Sheldon, Director of Marketing, Strategic Data Systems