The information technology industry continues to undergo rapid change as products and services are launched, and as new business models emerge and existing ones evolve.
Firms that just a few years ago were primarily installing on premise servers and software are now almost exclusively delivering cloud-based capabilities. Vendors that previously built their value proposition to resellers through fee-for-service models tied to product installation and customization are now offering instant-on, zero-configuration products instead.
As a result, small and growing information technology companies need to rapidly evolve in order to stay current and protect their current and future revenue channels. Here are seven emerging trends in business technology that IT service companies should consider embracing, supporting and offering to their customers:
1. From Cloud-Hosted to Cloud-Native
The first phase of the cloud migration for most small- and mid-sized enterprises has been from onsite hosting of business applications (typically in a client-server configuration) to remote hosting of those same applications, using remote desktop access tools and other cloud hosting tools.
The second phase is to complete the conversion from simply hosting the same or slightly updated versions of traditional software, over to using dedicated, cloud-native versions or migrating to new systems. For example, IT companies should become conversant with the cloud-only capabilities in Microsoft Office 365 or the options now available with Google’s recently enhanced G Suite.
2. Cloud-Based App-to-App Integration
As more and more organizations migrate to true cloud-native applications, IT vendors have a new area in which they can provide high-value expertise: cloud integration. There are many do-it-your-self products in the market to meet these needs, such as Zapier, IFTTT (If This Then That), Microsoft Flow and more.
However, the limits of the DIY model quickly arise as we go from one basic action in Product “A” generating a similar action in Product “B” (such as automatically taking a new customer record created in a CRM system and creating an identical version in an accounting system), to far more sophisticated options (when Product A generates a record with these specific specifications, trigger a variable workflow in Product B that changes depending upon these specs, and creates a different result as that formula is completed).
3. Business Collaboration Platforms
Since the cloud brings applications and their data closer together, the other thing it’s doing is bringing users closer together. The adoption rate of Slack, the number one enterprise messaging platform, set a new record (from 15,000 users to 2.7 million users in two years), and now Workplace by Facebook is redefining what means to be ‘surfing Facebook’ during the workday. This proves that businesses are rapidly incorporating chat, messaging, document sharing, group communication and other non-email collaboration tools into their workflows.
4. From Mobile-Enabled to Mobile-First
With smart tablets such as the Microsoft Surface and the Apple iPad Pro, the mobile-first business operating environment has now arrived. Tablet-based and phone-based applications are rapidly overtaking more and more workplace functions, and this means that IT providers need to become conversant with mobile and tablet support, structure and security.
5. Security: More Access and Better Protection
Security has become harder at exactly the point in time when clients want less restricted access. Locking down a remote desktop client or forcing stronger passwords on core applications is relatively easy; securing every USB port on every single workstation and protecting every employee-owned mobile device tied to the enterprise is completely different.
Today’s security needs require more and more user education and stronger provisioning to give users full access to their hybrid work environments (where device-based and cloud-based applications live side-by-side). If you’re not organizing regular educational programming for your clients or protect their employees, systems and data, you’re not delivering essential services necessary in today’s marketplace.
6. Live Video
As high-bandwidth capabilities continue to grow and businesses find new ways to build and manage workforces, more and more companies will benefit from video as a core capability. Live video streaming may be as simple as upgrading a client from individual Skype accounts to a Skype for Business account, or it may involve tying together multiple offices with a VPN running a dedicated instant-on video connection between meeting rooms or workspaces.
7. Business Intelligence
Business Intelligence (BI) technology evolved dramatically over the last decade, and is now poised to move rapidly from the enterprise market into both the middle market and small business spaces. Cloud applications and architectures have made data sharing much easier, which in turn allows even small organizations to feed data from multiple sources into a single BI platform.
Dashboards and analytics tools can now instantly empower executives in nearly every sector, from for-profit enterprises to nonprofits and associations. Products like Tableau and Microsoft Power BI are rapidly bringing these enormously powerful solutions into the small business and middle-market segments. IT service providers who offer BI assessments and consulting can rapidly expand their client relationships from high-quality delivery of standard capabilities into value-added delivery of new and emerging solutions.
These seven trends provide a powerful roadmap of options for today’s growth-oriented information technologies. Evaluate your clients and your target markets today to develop your unique roadmap of new and emerging solutions as you seek to build and grow your IT business for the future.