Tech review 2015: digitisation, data, and dastardly deeds

Barry Cutts

Friday 18 December 2015

A year of increasing enterprise agility, information saturation, and unwelcome visitors – here’s a snapshot of the ups and downs of 2015.

Breaking news

Unless you’re an avid reader of the tech trade press (and the interminable newsletters, updates, webinar invites, award ceremony notifications, and targeted B2B communications that arrive in your inbox each morning) you rarely encounter tech topics that make the news.

Resounding though its effects are on daily lives, technology lacks the ‘wow’ factor for the general public; until it goes wrong, that is. Such is the nature of news. For example, one might well assume that IoT became a dual acronym in 2015. The Internet of Things hogged much of the limelight during the year – particularly with regards to wearables improving healthcare outcomes – but so did the ‘Internet of Threats’. Certainly, some riveting events have taken place over the year that have brought hackers into the headlines!

Now everyone knows more about the dark side of tech; which is no bad thing in itself. Security issues are at the top of the business agenda, providing an entirely appropriate context for innovation. More digitisation and more data bring more responsibility for those who use the former to gather, store and exploit the latter. But first, the good news.

Faster, cheaper, deeper

Taking inspiration from the Olympic Games motto – ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’ – the state of tech can be summarised as faster, cheaper and deeper. These are trends that have become increasingly consolidated during 2015. Tech has been generally easier to harness due to cloud services, leading to benefits that have included:

• Computing capability as, when and where it’s needed: As enterprise-wide collaboration and ease of access to information has underpinned organisational agility, organisations have become more capable of responding faster to changing market conditions.

• More level playing fields: Costs have continued to tumble as a result of cloud computing models, enabling organisations not only to scale faster (computing on demand) but also to begin the process of running down expensive-to-maintain legacy systems, or of integrating them with more streamlined applications designed to optimise digitisation.

• Greater customer engagement/personalised services/the runaway success of the CX strategy: Deeper engagement between organisations and their customers (customer experience strategies) is opening new models for customer acquisition and retention; deeper engagement and collaboration across supply chains is enabling manufacturers and retailers to operate more efficiently.

In identifying major tech trends for the year ahead, Gartner defines a strategic technology trend as “one with the potential for significant impact on the organisation. Factors that denote significant impact include a high potential for disruption to the business, end users or IT, the need for a major investment, or the risk of being late to adopt.”

‘Computing Everywhere’, meanwhile, was identified as the number one tech trend of the year by Forbes , followed by IoT – “Expect technology to be embedded everywhere” – and then various usual suspects including data analytics, cloud, and so on.

There has been a very real feeling of technology and marketing coming together over the year; of IT serving business goals and understanding enterprise pain points, while at the same time marketing departments and other lines of business and services have shifted more into technology driven roles. Here are three examples:

• In retail, technology is playing an increasingly prominent role in driving a return to time-honoured values that have their roots in more elegant, bygone ages, where customers were treated like gods. With the growth of multi-channel retail strategies and the rise of digital savvy, connected customers (regardless of their generation) are being served more efficiently, and with a mind to improving the experience. The technology race is igniting competition to the ultimate benefit of the consumer.

• In healthcare, Accenture suggests there has been a slower adoption of technology than in other industries. Although a survey shows that 85 per cent of doctors say that patients’ use of wearable health devices helps patient engagement with their own health.

• In manufacturing, IndustryWeek states that: “Greater automation and investment driven by accelerated production cycles, advanced technology and changing labour demographics will continue to revolutionise the industry.” Once again, IoT looms largely in the industry’s view of its capabilities to “increase automation and job opportunities”.

Hacked off

This was a year of major financial loss to cybercrime, and we subsequently saw the ramping up of heavy investment in security. The Bank of England announced that it was increasing its spend on cybersecurity in a year which has, so far, seen 888 incidents involving the data breach of 246 million records.

While everyone heard about TalkTalk – a data breach accessing 157,000 customer accounts that ended up costing the company around £30-35 million – of less news prominence was an event where hackers stole £20 million from UK bank accounts. As a result, the National Crime Agency has advised internet users in Britain to make sure they have up-to-date operating systems and anti-virus software. So, that takes care of my gift-list for Christmas.

Back at the start of the year, our free Top 10 Technology Trends Shaping Business Today ebook put the Internet of Things at the top of the list: “More and more, these things will talk to one another and bypass people altogether, gathering information from sensors strewn all over the world.” 2015 will prove to have been the year this came to pass.

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