It is standard practice that at the start of a New Year people consider the future and make judgement calls on factors that may or may not be significant in the coming year. It is a good thing that we do so, it is always beneficial to reflect on the past and extrapolate into the future. In practice events flow rather than occur in chunks, so breaking technology and business practices into annual time slices never quite works. In other words, predictions made in 2010 may still be relevant this year and the next.
Take ‘The Cloud’. From all the press articles, it is this year’s next big thing, but it was, for many, also last year’s big thing. Certainly it is taking off, certainly it is a very popular delivery model and certainly, if as a software solution provider, you do not offer a cloud solution then you are lagging behind your competitors. But it is not a purchase model for every customer and won’t be for some time to come.
‘The Cloud’ is just one example of something that is big at the moment, so are tablet PC’s such as the iPad, so are Smartphones, and so is Social Networking. Looking at our business, we have our networking systems that never existed until recently, we have our LinkedIn account, Twitter account and our YouTube account etc. You probably have them as well. But the significant factor about these communication networks, is not that they are in ‘The Cloud’, but they were originally driven by the individual social networking experience. In other words, individuals within the business have driven our corporate IT communication methods and not the other way round.
Significant? Yes in many many ways. It means that the individual’s expectations of what a company provides for them and how it is provided are driving what companies need to deliver. Individuals are having great experiences with technology outside of the office, they equally expect it inside the office. If your company does not deliver this to them, then talented people may leave or never join to start with (how technology aware are today’s graduates?) If talent deserts you then so does your imagination, innovation and ultimately your competitive advantage.
The rise in this power of the individual will put pressure on IT departments to replace systems that are adequate in terms of business processing but inadequate in terms of end user experience. There is a bottom up demand for change, a demand that I have directly experienced from within our customers and one that greatly influences our product strategy. So when asked for a 2011 prediction I will not select a technology or a business practice but instead the demand by the individual to have better experiences from the systems provided to them.
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We all know employee engagement is good for business. Research by the Hay Group found that high levels of engagement can boost revenue growth by up to two and a half times. But how can companies make sure their employees are happy?