Technology moves at a fast pace, and trying to keep up with everything can be overwhelming. But there are some trends you must understand and plan for your business to survive. These five IT trends are impacting businesses in a big way. Here’s what you need to know -- and how you need to plan for them.
Security is top of mind for every company. With the constant media attention on security breaches, hacks and deficiencies it’s been pounded into our brains.
Being aware is one thing.
Being protected and prepared is altogether different.
Providing comprehensive security, both physical and logical, for a company is challenging today. It used devices. There were also fewer software vendors, many of which had their applications running on company-owned infrastructure or collocated infrastructure in a single datacenter.
In hindsight, we had it easy.
Today, companies are using numerous software
- Box or Dropbox for file sharing
- Office 365 for email
- SalesForce or Sugar for customer relationship management (CRM)
- QuickBooks for accounting
- Another for practice management or manufacturing
- Another for document management
- Another for voice over IP (VOIP)
You get the idea. It is not uncommon for even the smallest of companies to have six or more different vendors providing a line of business applications. As you might imagine, securing all these solutions in a consistent way that meets a business's requirements is a nightmare.
Aside from the normal security functions of data security, secure authentication, encryption, and ensuring all vendors stay current with their security practices, you have the added layer of business-specific compliance.
If you must be compliant with HIPAA, SEC, PCI, etc., then all vendors must meet those specific security requirements and prove it on a regular basis.
You need to have a blanket of security covering the entire business spectrum, including all vendors.
This is a new reality. Dealing with it proactively can save you a great deal of time, unnecessary risk and of course, money.
With the evolution of the cloud, companies are now using more third-party vendors than ever to deliver services, solutions and software. It’s not uncommon for a company to have six or more different cloud software vendors providing solutions for specific line-of-business needs.
Companies don’t want to waste time and money entering data into systems two or three times. They want software vendors to integrate their solutions with each other and pass that data along, so there is a unified, authoritative source.
While many of the mainstream cloud SaaS (software as a service) providers have built-in integration with other applications, it only takes one or two to break the chain.
Once this happens, businesses have a critical decision on their hands:
- Go with a different solution that can integrate but lacks all the functionality they need.
- Pay the software vendor to build integration to their other solutions.
- Do neither and settle for duplicate entry because they can’t lose the functionality or can’t afford the cost.
Compounding this issue is the exponential speed at which new software solutions are being produced and the extraordinary amount of vendor transitions occurring through mergers and acquisitions. A great product with excellent customer support is now a part of 800-lb Gorilla Inc.
All of the sudden you’ve become a number with no support.
- Do you switch and go through the integration issues all over again?
- Is the new solution vendor stable?
- Will they be around 2-5 years from now, or will they be made obsolete by the latest innovation?
Another major challenge and headache is vendor management. How does a company manage all these vendors at the same time?
Many times companies are forced to use non-technical personnel for these tasks. Being non-technical, it’s all but impossible for them to know when a vendor is truthful and transparent regarding a legitimate technical limitation versus something that can be done, but they just don’t want to do it.
Companies should have someone on their side, on their team (virtually or actually), providing advisory and vendor-management services to maximize the value of all vendors.
This also helps eliminate any finger-pointing that invariably happens when something goes wrong, and there are multiple parties involved.
Vendor sprawl is real, and it’s a challenge that should be dealt with strategically -- not as an afterthought.
User Behavioral Impact
If you have kids under the age of 25, you know -- they have literally grown up with technology in their hands.
It is typical for your teenager to know vastly more than you do about today’s technologies. My daughter is constantly telling me, “Arghh! Just give it to me dad and I’ll handle it.” And I’m the one in IT!
As our youth grows up in a world of multiple devices and countless apps (I think my daughter must have 10,000), the technology world is moving past us at blazing speeds. Through smartphones, tablets, iPads and wearables, the next generation of users are engulfed in technology from the time they wake until the time they put their heads down at night.
Immediate access to the new universe of technology has changed the way users behave and will continue to impact behavior in the future.
Can you imagine a millennial sitting at their cube waiting five minutes for a web page to load using a 1200 baud modem? No way!
As technologies have become more reliable, faster and ubiquitous, available anywhere at any time for any device, the demand on the IT infrastructure has increased.
Expectations for immediate technical support are no longer a luxury, but a requirement.
Users no longer want to hear about legitimate technical limitations. They want solutions, and they want them now.
User behavior will not only become more demanding, it will also become more complex because users will insist on access to all of their applications with a single ID and password (single sign-on).
Devices will work together, passing information seamlessly along with 99.999% uptime.
For older generations in the workforce, this will become increasingly frustrating -- and it will be career-limiting because it leads to a “keep up or get out” work environment.
The Advisory Gap
For IT to be of maximum value to any business, it needs to align with the business it’s supporting.
Knowing the top 3-5 business objectives for the next 12-36 months is critical. Without that knowledge, the IT staff will be in constant reactive mode, putting out fires.
Ensuring technology enables and drives the business will help create measurable value, rather than an IT helpdesk.
Having excellent IT support processes and t
All companies, regardless of size, should eliminate this blind spot by recognizing the value of IT strategy and planning. Adding it as a recurring element in their business will create value. Ultimately, IT should have a seat at the business strategy table.
It’s amazing to me that when I ask company business leaders what their top 3-5 business objectives are for the next 12-36 months, I get blank stares. Regardless of the size of the business.
After more prompting and pointed questions, I finally get some answers. They know the main objectives in their heads, they just haven’t articulated them.
Here’s the rub. If the company leadership can’t easily articulate their strategic business objectives, how can you expect the staff, who’s running all the operations, to know it as well?
The truth is, they don’t.
To address this problem and bridge the gap, companies need to recognize the value and need for an IT advisory-level service -- call it a virtual CIO -- and find a trusted, experienced resource that can provide it.
Without it, it’s akin to flying a plane with no flight plan. I’m not sure I’d want to be a passenger on that plane!
CIO-level advisory services should be a regular and recurring part of any business. Of course, a small five-employee company may only need a CIO-type review once a year. A larger company may need such services once a month to ensure IT stays ahead and aligned to the business. But without it, you're flying blind.
Beyond the Smoke and Mirrors
Like many industries, IT is very good at making colossal promises in their marketing material, websites and sales teams.
This is worse than ever before given the cut-throat competitive nature within IT today.
Every IT vendor out there is promising the world in order to keep that highly coveted dollar -- especially if it is recurring revenue.
Take Office 365 as an example. Microsoft is notorious for releasing products early and letting the public do its testing. Office 365, with the behemoth marketing engine behind it, makes a lot of promises, and it is a good product. But that doesn’t mean it will actually do all it says, do it well enough, or provide the performance and support a business requires. Setting up one new user in Office 365 is one thing. Migrating 100 user accounts from one email platform to Office 365 is an entirely different animal and not an overnight project.
With the explosion of web-based cloud software solutions comes an equal amount of promises. Have you ever heard this one: "Absolutely, our software will integrate with their software, no problem." Only later do you find it doesn't work as advertised.
The obvious problem is the business has planned their operational efficiencies and productivity (aka $$$) around that promise. When things don't go as smoothly as promised, it's the company business that suffers, often with painful consequences – lost revenue, lost customers, inability to add new customers … the list goes on.
For a non-IT-savvy person, seeing through the smoke and mirrors can be difficult, if not impossible.
Making matters worse is the nature of cloud software solution contract terms – “sign up for a 12-month subscription with a nasty termination clause.”
Once you find out all the warts, it’s too late. Not only from a monetary standpoint, but also in the chaos created in your business by making a change.
Having a senior IT person represent the company and thoroughly vet all the options (there are always more than one) can go a long way to avoiding this terrible scenario.
Are You Already Covering These 5 IT Must Haves?
The first thing you need to do to make sure your business is prepared for these five trends is to get your managers and IT team together for a frank discussion. Figure out which areas you might not be covering then creates a strategic plan to address them before they hurt your bottom line.
If you have any concerns or run into something you’re not sure about, don’t hesitate to contact us here at Fluid IT Services.