Out with the Old, in with the New
For many businesses, investment in new IT has been somewhat low on the list of essentials over the last year or two. Despite this, in the hi-tech world, the likes of Microsoft, Apple and Google have seen the pace of new developments increase further and faster than ever before. Jason Fazackerley takes a look at why many businesses now have an opportunity to take advantage of newer technologies. Can these technologies bring real commercial benefit and allow them to make 2012 a springboard to success? And if some IT budget becomes available, where should IT Directors and CIO’s spend it?
Cloud Computing: Having worked in the IT industry for over 20 years I have never seen such a rapid change in how solutions are purchased and delivered to the end user. Cloud computing is a service, whereby a third party provides software via a remote connection, such as the internet. A key advantage of this is that you only pay for what you actually use. Apple for example can store your music in a safe, secure location and stream it to your device whenever you want it (providing you can connect to a WIFI or 3G).
For businesses, Microsoft will provide email, video conferencing, CRM and even full business applications for a fixed monthly fee per user. This creates a flexible environment where companies can easily scale their requirements up or down without worrying about whether the server is big enough or having the IT skills to run the equipment.
Cloud reduces the upfront investment compared with the traditional model. This makes it very exciting for start-up companies or those that require lots of flexibility. We are now seeing larger, more traditional organisations are moving a lot of their in-house IT into the cloud. A very important impact is that the Cloud servers are shared, in a very secure way of course, but it allows the providers to spread the load across few servers. Most companies drive their IT equipment hard during the day but they do very little during the night, other than consume electricity and produce heat, which is then pumped outside the offices by the expensive air-con. With the Cloud, providers’ servers can be fully utilised 24/7 as they can work on a global basis, running Australia during the night. This and other factors are drastically reducing the carbon impact of IT.
Tablets & Mobile Computing: We could be forgiven for thinking that the battle between the major IT players over market share in the mobile computing world is a relatively new one. However, many of us can still remember the Psion Organiser from 1984 or the Apple Newton from 1987. The truth is, whilst there has been competition in this market for many years, the rewards have never been so great and the battle so fierce.
So why is 2012 so important? Well, the Newton was for techies – it had very limited appeal and didn’t really increase productivity or add any significant value; it only had Geek appeal. Who wants an iPad? Everybody wants an iPad. Apple claims to have penetrated 50% of Fortune 500 companies with the iPad within 90 days of its launch. Of course, Apple are not the only players as Google has the device independent Android operating system that can be applied to mobile phones and tablet computers, and has been adopted by many of the hardware manufacturers. In the USA alone, the mobile-office device market is reckoned to be worth $6.85 billion by 2015. Growth in Business, Education and Healthcare will be significant, but it is the applications that will bring the value.
App Store: I’m not big on computer games but having recently become addicted to Angry Birds on my iPad. I can see why more than 300 million copies have been downloaded so far. It is estimated that this figure will top 1 billion downloads soon. However, mobile devices such as Smartphones and Tablets are only beneficial to businesses if they have business apps. A number of single purpose apps that can be applied to a business function are available, but this is still a very immature market. 2012 will see the launch of many more apps that will provide richer functionality and deeper integration into the corporate front and back-office solutions.
Any time, Any place: Home working has been slow to catch on. Previously, it has been viewed with scepticism, particularly the subject of productivity. However, more and more companies are taking it seriously. In fact, for many it is now a strategic choice. Why? well it is now becoming more accepted that home workers are more productive than office workers. If you give people the tools they need to do their job at home and measure performance on output rather than hours booked, you will see an increase in productivity. In addition, many workers value the flexibility work/life balance that homeworking offers and in return put in that extra 10%. Of course it doesn’t suit all jobs role all of the time, but for many it can form part of their overall work pattern.
Microsoft in particular has made huge advances in the field of homeworking. Microsoft Lync is fully integrated wit Office 365 to enable seamless communication with the office, sharing applications, data and reports.
Social Computing: And finally, the other major technology advance of 2011 that is sure to grow even further in 2012 is Social Media. Love it or hate it, networks like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are part of the fabric of society and the extent to which you embrace it could have a massive impact on your business.
Stepping aside from the day to day use of social media, there are several key ways it can be used to enhance your business. Tools are becoming available to use social media for advanced customer service. It can be used as a PR tool to enhance your reputation and be seen as a more responsive caring organisation. It also gives you instant awareness into a mass market audience for virtually no cost.
Social media also ties in with the many of the other advancements detailed earlier in this article. The proliferation of powerful mobile devices means that we are always connected – for business and pleasure. And social media blurs the line between the two and for many people, cannot be separated.
Whatever happens over the next 12 months, it is sure to be focused on making the delivery of information faster and more personal. It is up to businesses to see where this can be used to their advantage and profit and engage in conversations with IT suppliers that incorporate the modern business principles of connectivity and sustainability into the very fabric of their organisations.