Technology Trends For 2008
29 October 2007 Bob Tarzey
Bob Tarzey of primary research and analysis company Quocirca talks to CEO about the big technological trends for 2008.
Take a look at many technology journals and it would be forgivable to think that the technologies shaping our future are like something out of a science-fiction movie. True, some of those more far-fetched ideas will make an impact – who would have predicted the scale of the mobile revolution or the Internet thirty years ago? But the ones that will have the most profound impact on business in the near future are not necessarily the most 'glamorous'.
All the big trends and technology focus areas that Quocirca predicts for 2008 are ones that address real business issues, or increasingly, the changing world in which we live, one that is volatile and more risk and environmentally aware.
With the push towards environmentally sound practices, companies have realised that it is possible to be green and yet still make money. Those showing really green credentials will be looking for savings in data centre power usage or even looking to locate data centres near clean power sources such as wind farms, where land prices and typical wages are often lower. Any possible reduction in high-speed connectivity may be balanced by investment in high-speed fiber-optic backbones.
Print management tools will enable economic use of paper, such as tagging which documents should be printed, while advanced communications capabilities, such as web and video-conferencing, will reduce employee travel commitments.
BUSINESS CONTINUITY BACK ON THE RADAR
The post-9/11 peak of interest in disaster recovery and business continuity may have passed, but in the wake of recent natural disasters – floods in the UK and fires in Greece for example– combined with the threat of terrorism, means that it is firmly back on the agenda.
As a result, vendors are looking at solutions not just for big organisations, but mid-range companies and even SMEs where employees and IT are often located on the same premises. Companies are realising that it does not make sense to have two vital assets – employees and IT infrastructure – in the same building. Having data centres in separate locations, often leased from a third party, provides greater security.
SECURITY GETS PHYSICAL
There will also be an increased focus on combining physical and IT security functions, particularly for companies in Europe and Asia-Pacific. Up to 75% of large companies in these regions have combined their physical and IT security functions to some extent and tighter bonding is to be expected.
Current initiatives in combined building and IT access controls will spread to other areas such as video surveillance, with advances in public security and critical infrastructure protection programmes driving investments. Consequently, there will be an increase in IT security space from established physical security vendors.
Software-as-a-service (SaaS) is creating greater innovation, providing businesses with more choices. With more remote processing, the emphasis is placed on the workings of wide area networks and public Internet (WANs). This is an attracting innovation and investment from vendors is helping to drive a thriving web acceleration market.
WORK/LIFE BALANCE 2.0
For many individuals there has been a concern with achieving the elusive 'work/life balance'. Increasingly, it is the business that has to get things balanced; between giving employees the flexibility and tools to be productive while controlling the amount these tools are used for personal rather than business applications.
Issues arise over how much consumer/home technology can be brought into the office - memory sticks, MP3s connected to the corporate network, syncing contacts to phones.
There is no acceptable 'ban' or 'wide open' policy, but a spectrum of rules that look a bit like those in firewalls, except these are HR firewalls'.
Some companies are increasingly looking to put IT into the hands of employees, allowing them to purchase and use their own products. Some are stating that they will provide employees with a budget for purchasing IT equipment while others are saying that their employees already own their own equipment and do not need extra help.
This will inevitably lead to greater problems over control of corporate assets. This plays back to the increase of remote and virtual application hosting, such as SaaS and centralised data centres to make sure such measures can be securely adopted.
Unified communications is a topic that has been around for years, but a recent shift has focused on applications at a user level rather than from network equipment manufacturers and carriers.
A problem arises over who is going to unify the separate and distinct tools and interfaces – how much will the IT desktop drive the user interface and how much will the mobile phone be in charge? Communication may become subsumed behind the brand of a social network front end. After all, we don't search anymore, we 'Google', and soon all we may do is 'poke' (a Facebook action, for the uninitiated)
Software Oriented Architectures (SOAs)– which enable the uncoupling of systems, applications and location – will play an increasingly important role in making this possible, although there will still be headlines about poorly applied SOA projects, with questions about whether they are just the latest silver bullet not to work. The ultimate winners will be those who take on small, discrete project implementations and build up a successful SOA environment over time.
The technology focus for 2008 is about improving competitive edge. Companies are looking to increase their ability to achieve a real-time view of the state of business operations, allowing them to respond quickly to any situations that occur. Companies that achieve this will see competitive gains in the short term at least.
Many companies are looking to make better use of their existing investments in enterprise applications, such as ERP and CRM, with content and information management that provides them with a complete view across such traditionally isolated applications.
Technologies that allow automatic classification of information as it is produced, with the ensuing control of information access according to employee role, will see further investment from many companies in 2008.
Interest in predictive analytics will increase as the complexity of the competitive environment means that businesses are increasingly challenged in understanding their customers, predicting customer behaviour, making supply chains more efficient and forecasting product demand.
Consumer use of mapping technology such as Google Maps will continue to stimulate corporate interest in location intelligence. Businesses that use their existing investments in business intelligence by spatially enabling their business data with combined external geographic data will be best positioned to benefit from more intuitive ways of analysing, visualising and interpreting information.
2008 is shaping up to be a fast-changing year in the world of business technology, with some old ideas re-taking centre stage, along with the introduction of new concepts.
It is hard to predict what the technology landscape will look like this time next year but one thing is clear: it is the real-world benefits of technology that drive its adoption, not 'blue sky' ideas that sound great in practice, but will have little impact on the bottom line.