Trend-watching is an essential part of enterprise IT management, since it allows businesses to prepare for future shifts in the market and ideally take advantage of emerging platforms and services to give them the upper hand today. To help you keep your finger on the pulse, here are 5 technology mega-trends which are quickly establishing themselves to the point that few organisations can afford to be without them.
Internet connectivity allows businesses to stay on top in a digital world, but not all services are created equal and there is a growing need for superfast broadband among enterprises that want to make the most of the rest of the trends mentioned below. The rollout of FTTC (fibre to the cabinet) and FTTP (fibre to the premises) is allowing for single-line solutions with speeds of between 80Mbps and 330Mbps, while even faster connectivity is afforded via leased lines and point-to-point Ethernet.
Businesses in rural areas are still having to fight to attain the type of connectivity that puts them on a level playing field with their urban competitors, but campaigns and initiatives are helping to bridge the digital divide and the availability of 4G connectivity is going to eventually ensure that superfast broadband speeds are near ubiquitous, even if they are delivered wirelessly.
Businesses still have to procure a significant amount of hardware, but BYOD (bring your own device) culture, perpetuated by the popularity of smartphones and tablets in the consumer market, is helping to reduce costs and improve employee flexibility. Most businesses will find that staff members will use personal portable devices for work purposes whether or not this type of activity is sanctioned by the IT department. This means it is necessary to adapt to the requirements of employees and accept this practice rather than attempt to quash it unnecessarily.
BYOD makes it possible for team members to operate effectively whether they are in the office, out in the field or working from home. This means that work can be built around life responsibilities, improving morale and also boosting productivity as a result. Staff can use productivity apps and communications services such as email, instant messaging and VoIP from a modern smartphone or tablet. And of course since the company has not had to pay for these devices, there are lower costs to be enjoyed along with the efficiency improvements.
After broadband connectivity, cloud computing is the most important core technology fuelling modern enterprise IT services, often being harnessed even if the end user is not aware of its presence. Cloud computing is a broad market made up of many different products, but in essence it is the alternative to on-site IT and means that remote data centres operated by third-party providers can host apps, store data and provide infrastructure to companies.
The cloud turns computing into a utility that can be purchased on demand, which makes for an incredibly flexible state of affairs, allowing companies to pay only for the capacity they require rather than having to install, maintain and upgrade their own hardware on-site.
Of course the cloud's flexibility is such that businesses are able to pick between private, public and hybrid setups which accommodate the specific requirements of a firm rather than force companies into pre-fabricated packages that may not be appropriate. The cloud can host email, mission-critical data and apps which are required to make sure that a business runs smoothly. And because it is scalable, it can shape itself to the peaks and troughs of usage that occur within any company over the course of the year, with pricing to match.
Voice communications remain vitally important to modern companies, but telephone conferencing, even when hosted in a VoIP environment, is still a less than ideal way for large groups of people to engage with one another simultaneously. With A/V conferencing services, hosted in the cloud and powered by superfast broadband connectivity, most of the issues associated with this can be circumvented.
Video conferences between multiple parties who may be dispersed across the country or the planet make it possible for everyone to get their voice heard and their faces seen. Companies can hold meetings, run presentations and conduct seminars and training using this communications portal.
Visual element means that the speaker merits a greater degree of attention and there is less room for confusion. Another benefit of video conferencing is that it means there is less need for employees to travel long distances in order to hold meetings with colleagues, clients and business partners. This is not only a time saver that enhances productivity, but also cuts costs for the company and can help it to bring its carbon footprint into line with any reduction goals which may have been set. Video conferencing has even gone mobile, so with BYOD it is easy for enterprise users to get in touch even when they are out and about. Impressive audio and video quality helps to make this type of service particularly popular and powerful in its application.
With social media services it is possible for businesses to not only engage with their customers directly, but also get an idea of what views relating to their products, services and reputation are being exchanged in the ever-swirling world of the web.
While in the past this type of online communication might have been handled directly via email or constricted to a single esoteric forum post, it is now available for all to see, with searchable hashtags and trends on sites like Twitter helping people to share opinions and voice frustrations.
There is obviously the potential for issues to arise from social media services, but also the opportunity for companies to improve customer awareness, promote products and generally keep on top of emerging trends. The most popular business accounts and social media pages have hundreds of thousands of followers and because consumers now have smartphones and tablets with them at all times, it is much easier to disseminate information to a huge audience through key platforms and get an immediate reaction.
All of these IT mega-trends are entrenched in cutting-edge operations for many businesses, but there are also plenty of companies which have yet to bite the bullet and actually adopt them. A Luddite attitude to technology is dangerous, particularly in an environment where almost everyone is engaged with the digital realm. The relevance and power of certain trends may wax and wane over time, but these five solutions are here to stay and the businesses which benefit the most will be those that get on board at the earliest juncture.