It’s that time of year again. Industry pundits pull out their IT predictions for the biggest trend in small business IT for 2014. Our clients often ask us, “What do you guys see as being the big trends for 2014?”. Here are our own predictions:
The biggest trend that we foresee is the combination of hybrid systems that use both cloud and traditional onsite systems. These hybrid systems make businesses more flexible by integrating personal computing devices that employees are bringing to the workplace. This trend is really three different trends that are vitally reliant on each other. You can’t talk about cloud services without talking about mobility, and you can’t talk about mobility without talking about BYOD. Here is our take on all three.
Blending Cloud Services with Traditional Onsite Systems – The Best of Both Worlds.
This trend has already started, but Tektivity sees more and more small businesses requesting a blend of cloud based services with traditional onsite systems. These hybrid approaches will make small businesses more efficient and allow them to adapt to an ever changing marketplace even quicker. There are some resources that are much more efficient when kept onsite and others that work better in the cloud. Small businesses can see real efficiency gains by combining both approaches into one seamless system.
There are several things driving this trend. The most prevalent is upstream and downstream partners putting their resources in the cloud. Ordering, pricing, inventory control, resource management, and too many other functions to mention, are now being handled with cloud based systems. In order to participate as a valid business partner, small businesses are being required to access the cloud services of their larger partners.
Another driver of the hybrid system is traditional line-of-business software, that runs on onsite servers, is being transitioned to cloud servers by the software developers. Having centrally managed software saves the end-user the headache of having to do upgrades by themselves. The downside is that you may have to keep your other systems up to date to remain compatible.
Flexibility vs. Mobility
Another driver of hybrids is the demand for flexibility or what others refer to as mobility. By having access to information wherever you are whenever you want is flexibility created by mobility. The flexibility trend will grow even stronger in 2014. It is hard to imagine a software developer who is moving their product to the cloud not to have a mobile app to serve as a client on smartphones and tablets.
Employees are demanding the ability to access corporate resources while outside of the office. The trend towards cloud resources is certainly helping their cause, but there are still corporate resources that should be kept onsite. Opening the portals to provide better access to this information and resources will become more important to small businesses that want to remain nimble and reactive.
In a previous blog, I spoke about Unified Communications, or how you could make your office phone system more flexible by extending it to mobile devices. This trend will be driving small businesses to look very hard at their existing phone system and how to integrate it with other information resources, like their computer network.
Personal Devices in the Workplace – BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)
Flexibility really means allowing people to use devices they are familiar with and want to use, like smartphones and tablets. I was amazed the other day, when looking for an iPad app to access our cloud based CRM system, to find nearly double the number of apps available today then say 3-4 months ago. The demand is there for software developers to create mobile apps for specific use. Why? Because people want the convenience of using one or two portable devices to quickly keep in touch and to easily access corporate information and resources they need to make decisions on the spot.
Using personal devices does create a whole other set of security issues, but the BYOD trend has been around long enough that we are starting to figure out how to secure the data being accessed, which will only fuel the flames of the this trend.
The overriding small business data trend for 2014? Cloud services operating in a seamless environment with onsite services that create greater efficiency, including increased flexibility with how those services are accessed using a wider array of devices.