Michael C. Pelletier, MBA, MSCS
We can always avail ourselves of new technology solutions to tackle problems in new ways. Some are evolutionary, some are revolutionary and some are subversive. There are five technology trends that your organization can take the lead on, wait for a few first movers and then follow, or simply get out of the way and let the trend pass.
Cloud computing means a lot of things to a lot of people. Using the definition arrived at in an earlier article it speaks to the shift from business applications running on premise or in a hosting center to running as a service managed by the vendor themselves. Microsoft has taken a significant lead in this space investing over 9 billion dollars this past year building out data centers and enhancing the tools and services provided. This is a technology that's real; it works and can provide a significant cost savings and increase business agility.
Increasingly, business professionals are being asked to be more productive regardless of their physical location. With increases in network connectivity, improvements in audio/video conferencing through the web, and increasing capabilities on notebooks, netbooks and mobile phones, there are relatively few barriers to success. What is lacking in most cases is the cultural shift that suggests it's okay for an employee to work from home or a different office location and still have them be productive. If you can get your organization on board with the mobile work style, you can take advantage of the tremendous power and capability of these technologies.
While related to mobile productivity, this one deserves to stand alone. The technology is here today to allow organizations greater flexibility around their telephony infrastructure, voicemail, email and video capabilities. Voicemail can be delivered to your email inbox. Your email can be read via text to speech by calling in to your email box. The PBX is a thing of the past replaced, instead, by the standard Windows operating system and software that your IT staff can support -- gone are the days that you need to have someone trained on the idiosyncrasies of a specific PBX and voicemail system. An instant message can turn into a video call which can then be handed off to a cell phone to complete while you head to your next appointment. It's an incredible technology that truly unifies the disparate technologies we use for communication today.
Social Networking Technologies
There are many positive things that can be said about Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networking technologies. The challenge, however, is calculating a return on investment (ROI) for the time and effort spent in nurturing these endeavors. You can plant the seeds of a social networking garden by setting up a Facebook fan page for your business or a Twitter account for your customers to find out about news and updates. However, without the proper care and feeding, your garden won't grow and you run the risk of getting overrun with the weeds of negative consumer sentiment. Assuming you've set up these tools and are investing the time to keep them current and up-to-date, is it really leading to more business and an improved relationship with the customer? This is a technology trend that many companies have adopted. It might still be worth waiting a while on this one, however, as the payoff isn't necessarily that concrete.
Hot Consumer Oriented Devices
There is no argument that devices like the iPhone, the iPad, Androids, etc. are compelling products. They have features, capabilities and usability characteristics that allow for consumers to be productive with them within a short period of time. However, this does not mean they have a place within corporate IT. There are many considerations that need to go into deciding whether the latest device has a place within the organization. Does an Android have the same security and control capabilities as a Blackberry or Windows Mobile device? No. Is there a business case for an iPad? Maybe. The point is that an organization should focus on technologies that deliver tangible value to shareholders, improve customer satisfaction, increase revenues and lower costs.