No matter what industry you're in, your company can't survive without technology. And these days, even non-technical employees know that technology goes way beyond desktop computers and networks. From smartphones and tablet computers to mobile apps and cloud-based technology, there's a plethora of technological advancements to not only keep track of, but also to profit from. To stay competitive, your organization needs to anticipate the most significant technology trends that are shaping your business and then develop innovative ways to use them to your advantage, both inside and outside of your organization. Remember, if it can be done, it will be done. If you don't use these technologies to create a competitive advantage, someone else will.
Over the next five short years the following game-changing technologies will transform how we sell, market, communicate, collaborate, educate, train, innovate, and much more.
#1. Rapid Growth of Big Data. Big Data is a term used to describe the technologies and techniques used to capture and utilize the exponentially increasing streams of data with the goal of bringing enterprise-wide visibility and insights to make rapid critical decisions. High Speed Analytics using advanced cloud services will increasingly be used as a complement to existing information management systems and programs to tame the massive data explosion. This new level of data integration and analytics will require many new skills and cross-functional buy-in in order to break down the many data and organizational silos that still exist. The rapid increase in data makes this a fast growing hard trend that cannot be ignored.
#2. Cloud Computing and Advanced Cloud Services will be increasingly embraced by business of all sizes, as this represents a major shift in how organizations obtain and maintain software, hardware, and computing capacity. As consumers, we first experienced public clouds (think about when you use Google or Apple's iCloud). Then we saw more private clouds and hybrid clouds from businesses such as Flextronics, Siemens, Accenture, and many others, all using the cloud to cut costs in human resources and sales management functions. This was only the beginning, as cloud services enable the rapid transformation for all business processes.
#3. On Demand Services will increasingly be offered to companies needing to rapidly deploy new services. Hardware as a Service (HaaS) joins Software as a Service (SaaS), creating what some have called "IT as a service." All will grow rapidly for small as well as large companies, with many new players in a multitude of business process categories. These services will help companies cut costs as they provide access to powerful software programs and the latest technology without having the expense of a large IT staff and time-consuming, expensive upgrades. As a result, IT departments in all industries will be increasingly freed to focus on enabling business process transformation, which will allow organizations to maximize their return on their technology investments.
#4. Virtualization of Storage, Desktops, Applications, and Networking will see continued acceptance and growth by both large and small businesses as virtualization security improves. We will continue to see the virtualization of processing power, allowing mobile devices to access supercomputer capabilities and apply it to processes such as purchasing and logistics, to name a few.
#5. Consumerization of IT increases as consumers become the driving source for innovation and technology, which is fueled by rapid advances in processing power, storage, and bandwidth. Smart companies have recognized that this is a hard tend that will continue and have stopped fighting consumerization. Instead, they are turning it into a competitive advantage by consumerizing their applications, such as recommending safe and secure third-party hardware and apps. Encouraging employees to share productivity enhancing consumer technology will become a wise strategy.
#6. Gamification of Training and Education will fuel a fast moving hard trend of using advanced simulations and skill-based learning systems that are self-diagnostic, interactive, game-like, and competitive, all focused on giving the user an immersive experience thanks to a photo-realistic 3-D interface. Some will develop software using these gaming techniques to work on existing hardware systems such as the Xbox and PlayStation. A social component that includes sharing will drive success.
#7. Social Business takes on a new level of urgency as organizations shift from an Information Age "informing" model to a Communication Age "communicating and engaging" model. Social Software for business will reach a new level of adoption with applications to enhance relationships, collaboration, networking, social validation, and more. Social Search will increasingly be used by marketers and researchers, not to mention Wall Street, to tap into millions of daily tweets and Facebook conversations, providing real-time analysis of many key consumer metrics.
#8. Smartphones & Tablets Become Our Primary Personal Computers, and the Mobile Web becomes a must-have capability. An Enterprise Mobility Strategy Becomes Mandatory for all size organizations as we see mobile data, mobile media, mobile sales, mobile marketing, mobile commerce, mobile finance, mobile payments, mobile health, and many more explode. The vast majority of mobile phones sold globally will have a browser, making the smart phone our primary computer that is with us 24/7 and signaling a profound shift in global computing. This new level of mobility will allow any size business to transform how they market, sell, communicate, collaborate, educate, train, and innovate using mobility.
#9. 3-D Printing (additive manufacturing) represents a revolutionary type of manufacturing where 3-D printers build things by depositing material, typically plastic or metal, layer by layer until the final product is finished. Originally designed to print prototypes, they are increasingly being used to print final products such as jewelry, iPhone cases, shoes, car dashboards, parts for jet engines, prosthetic limbs and much more. It allows companies to manufacture quickly, locally and with far fewer costs.
#10. Intelligent Electronic Agents using natural language voice commands was launched with Apple's Siri, which was rapidly followed by Android, Microsoft, and others all offering what will become a mobile electronic concierge on your smart devices including your phone, tablet, and television. Soon retailers will have a Siri-like sales assistant, and maintenance workers will have a Siri-like assistant. The possibilities are endless.
#11. Digital Identity Management will become increasingly important to both organizations and individuals as new software allows users to better manage their multiple identities across business and personal networks. Next Generation Biometrics integrated into your smartphone and tablet will play a key role in both identity management and security.
#12. Visual Communications takes video conferencing to a new level with programs like Skype, FaceTime, and others giving us video communication on phones, tablets, and home televisions. Visual Communications will be integrated with current video conferencing systems, fueling this as a main relationship-building tool for businesses of all sizes.
#13. Enhanced Location Awareness will accelerate the number of business-to-consumer apps for smartphones and tablets that will take geo-social marketing and sales to a new level of creative application, driving rapid growth. In addition, Geo-Spatial Visualization combines geographic information systems (GIS) with location-aware data, RFID (radio frequency identification), and other location-aware sensors (including the current location of users from the use of their mobile devices) to create new insights and competitive advantage. Early enterprise applications include logistics and supply chain to name a few.
#14. Mobile Banking using smart phones as an eWallet is already being used in a few countries and will finally take off on a larger scale thanks to an increasing number of phones with Near Field Communications (NFC) chips. More important, banks and credit card companies are already starting to see non-bank competitors jump in to the mobile payment race, including Google Wallet and Apple's iOS 6 Passbook to name a few.
#15. Smart TV Using Apps will get a major boost in the marketplace, fueling a major shift in home viewing. Ever wonder how you could have over 500 cable or satellite channels and nothing to watch? You didn't have apps on your TV allowing you to personalize the experience. This is the beginning of a major shift that will take place in living rooms globally. Look for Apple to introduce the iTV (living room-size iPad).
#16. Multiple App Stores for all smartphone, tablet, and television operating systems (Android, Blackberry, Windows, and others) will grow rapidly, creating an abundant distribution and sales ecosystem for all. In addition, there will be an increasing focus on Business App Stores within companies using apps for sales support, maintenance, purchasing, logistics, and much more. This will cement the revolution versus evolution that apps software represents.
#17. 3-D Displays for Smartphones and Tablets will be the breakthrough that will drive wide-scale consumer acceptance of 3-D computing. This trend has already started with hand-held gaming systems and, thanks to the need to visualize ever increasing amounts of rich data, we will see 3-D data simulations for the enterprise grow rapidly starting with the military and then to medicine, fashion, architecture, and entertainment to name a few.
#18. eBooks, eNewspapers, eMagazines and Interactive Multimedia eTextbooks pass the tipping point due to the abundance of smartphones and tablets that provide a full color experience, and publishers providing apps that give a better-than-paper experience by including cut, copy, paste, print, and multimedia capabilities. Interactive eTextbooks will finally take off thanks to easy-to-use software such as Apple's iBook Author and other competing tools, freeing new publishers to create compelling and engaging content, and freeing students from a static, expensive, and literally heavy experience.
#19. Advanced Automation and Robotics will take a giant leap forward after decades of promise but slow growth thanks to exponential advances in processing power, storage, and bandwidth. Also, thanks to better sensors, artificial intelligence, and Siri-like voice communications, robots will work with humans in new and productive ways.
#20. Machine-to-Machine Communications using chips, microsensors and both wired and wireless networks will create a rapidly growing "internet of things" sharing real-time data, performing diagnostics, and making virtual repairs all without human intervention. By 2020, there will be well over a billion machines talking to each other, performing tasks, and making decisions based on predefined guidelines using artificial intelligence.
Spot Your Own Hard Trends
Are these the only game-changing technology-driven trends to be aware of? Of course not. As we all know from past experience, technology is always evolving, resulting in new trends emerging and new products appearing every day. That's why smart organizations stay ahead of the trends by anticipating them, adapting them to their unique environment before the competition does, and ultimately enabling the organization to profit from them. The more you're able to do that, the sooner your organizations will reach the next level of success.
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