1. The big 4 tech trends: Mobility, Cloud, Big Data, Social
If Microsoft are to be believed the megatrends of the moment are Mobile, Cloud, Big Data and Social – and to be fair – the signs are there. While IT departments are still trying to spell BYOD (Bring your own device), the population as a whole is now used to, and expect, mobility. Desktop sales are in steep decline and smartphones, touch-laptops and tablets dominate. Humans now expect data to come to them. Software vendors now have to add a twist of mobile to anything they do – which can be a shock for some. Mobility will continue to grow into an expected aspect of business solutions – with iOS and Android devices leading demand with Windows Mobile a poor third place.
The mobile revolution is a very visible one, we all love toys, but the Cloud revolution is a much more disruptive change because it affects not just software functionality but the business terms that surround it too. The Cloud is not just ‘hosting’, it’s a whole new approach to software and its consumption. It will change the speed of delivery and sales cycle of software and enable new solutions to be assembled as IT barriers are torn down. From a vendor’s perspective the Cloud is a maturing and powerful new enabler that is ripe for use. Customers are still wondering what it really is, but they will all too soon be demanding its benefits: Reduced IT barriers for projects, Opex commercials and powerful computing features and scaling not possible on a normal business network (well – a lot more seamless than last time anyway!). Cloud is now in its prime time of disruption – vital for vendors to embrace and of real interest to customers. We will see many vertical Cloud apps appearing that solve similar collaboration challenges but with tie-ins for particular sectors – health being a great example.
Cloud is a great place to collaborate and I believe in 2015 we will see an increase in the use of self-service in the Cloud. It means companies do not need to run their own 24/7 server solutions. They can work in the Cloud that can integrate with back office systems.
If Cloud is a little stratospheric, then ‘Big Data’ is more or less surreal to our customers. Nonetheless, the new generation of business users understand the value and nuances of data and want to use data to help drive their decisions and processes. Access to good quality plentiful data can enhance or completely transform solutions. For most businesses this will not be an overnight epiphany, but will smoulder for a few years as disparate systems and poor data are herded into the new Big Data world. For 2015, we’ll see an increased demand for better and effortless reporting from a more articulate customer.
To prepare the ground, start organising your data – show it some respect. Most companies are not measuring the correct things and lying to themselves about the accuracy of their data capture. 2015 will be the year company’s look to clean up their data capture process to ensure they are analysing the right information that is beneficial to them.
Meanwhile, social has now caught the attention of all businesses as a ‘new’ way to reach and interact with prospects, customers and competitors. Content focused solutions will have to offer more value from social content, events and software systems than ever before, these features will start to become deal winners. Long standing businesses still have a hard time understanding the ‘Social’ role in their business, but many consultancies are doing a roaring trade helping them make the turn and this activity will only increase next year.
2. And what of Paper?
Last year I made the prediction that resentment of the Photocopier would happen, and I am pleased to say that signs of this were there – with sales of those ghastly machines finally taking a downward turn. I am sorry to say the change is slower than I would like, but department heads are now understanding that paper and machines that produce them must be removed from business processes in order for greater efficiency and competitive edge. I am begging business leaders to accelerate the trend and replace costly-print-managed-over-priced-copiers with a few good quality scanners and put this clumsy era of computers for paper to bed.
With over 100% penetration of mobile devices in the UK – printing is now seen as a dirty activity and is being limited to transportation/delivery/shop floor use cases. We shall see the continued battle against paper. Clean desks and paper free offices are appearing in many places now and not because of the 90’s paperless dream, but because of the clarity of vision of new business owners and progressive IT directors.
3. Beginning of the end for “shared drives” and huge mail boxes
Many companies are still having trouble knowing where important information is kept. They have bloated mail boxes and chaotic file shares that are not really visible to the business in any way – and Dropbox is only making it worse. In 2015 I predict that many more companies will be shutting down their file shares and taking control of the information that was in them. These shares have been “dumping” grounds and many business owners will be looking to introduce a way to enable easy discovery of information and policy driven control of access. After all, everything you do at work is corporate property. Additionally, 80% of your shared drive is irrelevant, a duplicate copy or digital rubbish. Companies are realising that if they discard the waste and put the remaining quality documents into a document management system, business information is known and access is far more efficient and IT money is saved.
Companies are also starting to reduce their reliance on email – and the huge email boxes that employees hog. Email is like ‘digital paper’ in disguise. Email is a slush of notifications, conversations and unmanaged agreements, it can be moved around without anything but the simplest of restrictions. Who’s to say an employee won’t email something important to the competition for example. Using a company depository platform extends a business’s control and will help you stop your email turning into chaos.
4. Changes in how people process documents?
Whilst we expect users to keep enjoying good Document Management, I expect to see many more Finance departments automating their Accounts Payable function to make their processes more efficient and their controls more effective. Invoice Processing is a fabulous solution that is high on benefit and relevant to many businesses of varying size. Customers are now seeing the need for Workflow solutions. They understand that a process needs to be embodied in a system and not just be described in a standard operating procedure document, printed out and left on a shelf. Auditors are now expecting, and even hoping, to dock into an electronic store of data and electronic audit trails that makes their job easier too.
By Stuart Evans, Chief Technology Officer, Invu