Business IT trends for 2016 – an insider's view
Thorsten Stremlau, Lenovo’s WW Principle IT Architect, on the IT trends to watch in 2016.
Converged infrastructure, the cloud, big data analytics and future-minded IT practices are at the heart of the future-ready business. How ready are you?
According to an IDC whitepaper published last year, The Future-Ready Enterprise, only 16% of UK enterprises are what it calls ‘future creators’ – those that are actively defining the future for their business, not having it dictated to them.
The study describes how so-called future-ready businesses are able to plan for and anticipate business shifts, harnessing the power of technology to develop strategies that can deliver success in this new environment.
Speaking to more than 2500 senior level IT staff from organisations across the world, the report builds a picture of how businesses are planning for the future, and using technology to generate a sustainable competitive advantage.
Organisations that keep one eye on the future and have a strategic plan for their IT needs are often much more likely to see increases in customer satisfaction, new customer acquisition and sales. Substantial returns in revenue and profits, and even improved employee productivity, are also enjoyed by future-ready businesses.
Here’s what you need to ensure your business is future-ready.
IT convergence, integrated systems or unified computing all mean basically the same thing – the bringing together of computing, storage and networking into a shared resource centre that can be rapidly deployed.
One simple way of defining IT convergence is looking at it from the user perspective. Users want their programs, data storage and networking delivered in the same place and they certainly don’t care how it’s configured.
It’s about breaking down silos and enabling business to rapidly deploy new solutions quickly. We’re talking hours not days or weeks. One of the benefits of converged IT comes pre-packaged and pre-optimised, so it’s ready to be deployed straight out of the box.
“A future-ready organisation is one that is always extending the abilities of its IT infrastructure and applications while also pursuing new IT organisational practices,” says Ricky Thomas, IT entrepreneur and founder and chief executive of business intelligence tool Truedash.
Across Europe, many of us have happily embraced the cloud, with the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF) claiming that 84% of UK businesses use it for at least some processes. And adoption rates are likely to continue to rise, as businesses are now ready to move everything to the cloud, as confidence in its performance, robustness and security increases.
“Everything is hosted in the cloud for performance and scalability,” explains Thomas, whose scaleable platform and data tool runs entirely in the cloud. As well as facilitating better and more efficient working practices, the cloud can do much more.
Peter Ruffley, chair of big data analytics firm Zizo, agrees with Thomas, believing the cloud “is the collaborative model that will drive the real incremental business value”.
Many businesses don’t need to be told again that the cloud is the future, but simply moving processes to the cloud isn’t enough for future creators who seek to tailor it to specific uses.
Today, having access to data isn’t enough. Organisations need to unlock its potential at all levels, becoming what Thomas describes as “data-driven” in order to make sense of the information they are presented with and gain valuable insights.
“The cloud analytics model is so compelling,” enthuses Ruffley. “Organisations now have the chance to explore these new data resources with minimal investment, gaining access to both the technology and data experts required to help prioritise activity and identify new data-driven data streams.”
The power of big data is when it’s handled strategically. When asked what businesses need to harness the power of big data, Thomas is clear. “First of all, they need to think about the few KPIs that matter in each department and how these lead to the KPIs that matter to the company overall,” he says.
Future creators need to balance solid business fundamentals with the ability and willingness to take risks. In the past decade, the tech world has transformed beyond all recognition and it shows no signs of slowing down, with speech recognition, machine learning and artificial intelligence, and the increasing promise of the Internet of Things promising to change things even further.
“Future-ready organisations not only react quickly to market changes but are also better able to become disruptors themselves,” says Thomas, describing how the future creators of today could easily become tomorrow’s runners-up unless they create a culture of change.
Businesses need to choose the right solutions for the right problems, which comes down to strategy, leadership and a good dollop of common sense. They also need to be flexible and adaptive, responding to market conditions quickly and effectively. In this sense at least, the future isn’t so different to the past after all.
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