As 2016 gets underway, organizations are searching for new ways to grow, compete, and win. They know technology will play a role. While it's impossible to have a crystal ball to predict the future, some key trends have emerged in the coming year that are relevant for small and medium-sized organizations.
Trend 1: Go digital to get customer obsessed
In 2015, Forrester Research published a report called, "Winning In The Age Of The Customer". The report highlights how customers have shifted to mobile and consume vast amounts of information to stay informed and make better decisions. Martin Gill, with Forrester, writes that,
"Digitizing your business isn't about technology: it's about customer obsession - and in 2016, it will be among your ten critical business success factors helping position your firm for success in the Age of the Customer."
Technology, when used effectively as a tool is a means to an end. The end is how companies use digital information to learn how to make customers happier. In the past, a company's need to make a customer happy based on it's own definition, not the customer. Today, customers define happiness and companies work hard to attain it. Customers let them know when they do and when they don't.
Trend 2: Enable your business with IT automation and managed services
In 2016, small and medium sized business (SMBs) budgets will be relatively flat and unchanged. Companies will focus on core functions like provisioning, monitoring, maintenance, migrations and upgrades, according to Spiceworks 2016 State of IT Report. Additionally, technology end-of-life (EOL) will strongly influence investment in 2016.
Companies are also realizing that in order to focus on core business competencies, they need to increase automation of IT and managed services. This year will see a transition away from a "break and fix" mentality to enabling business towards full service core IT functions as well a delivery of "as a Service" solutions. Hardware projects are expected to dominate 2016 IT budgets at 37% versus 41% in 2015. Managed service projects will account for 14% in 2016 versus 10% in 2015. SMBs want to be able grow and accelerate without increasing the number of IT employees with minimal additional spending.
Trend 3: Growth of the Cloud and Data
The cloud will continue to be adopted in order to make operations more efficient. According to Spiceworks 2016 State of IT Report, IT spending on hosted and cloud-based projects will rise from 12% in 2015 to 14% in 2016. However, management wants more control and plans to pursue both private and hybrid cloud-hosting solutions. This will enable organizations to improve existing solutions and be in charge of their own applications and data, instead of a generic one size fits all solution for everyone.
Another reason for the growth in the cloud will come from the growth in wearables and the Internet of Things (IoT). If wearables and IoT are to succeed, they must become more useful to individuals and organizations by integrated the data with other devices through the cloud.
Trend 4: Security and Operating System breaches will rise
Small businesses can expect to spend more time and money in cyber security and attacks. While large hacks of publicly traded companies garner most of the attention, criminals continue to target SMBs using methods like ransomware to extort small and large sums of money, because they are less secure. Ransomware occurs when a user unsuspectingly installs a malware that works to lock a computer or computer system. Data and computer systems are inaccessible until the victim pays the ransom. If victims don't pay the money, the cost from lost business could be catastrophic to a company.
About 75% of IT professionals say their companies are at risk for IT security and man-made disasters or incidents according to the Spiceworks 2016 State of IT Report. 74% of organizations have not changed their IT security practices despite the public security breaches that affected big brands in the past few years. This is an areas with lots of room for improvement in 2016, particularly in the area of employee training. Employee training is the weakest link in the chain. Human error or lack of knowledge allows criminals to trick and fool people.
Trend 5: Millennials will drive mobile growth
In 2016, small businesses will want to continue to adapt to the millennial generation, who grew up with mobile smartphones and devices. They prefer to consume and interact with businesses on devices and phones. This will require companies to develop better online and mobile customer engagement initiatives because millennials will represent a growing population.
At the same time, a Spiceworks report, called, The Rise of the Mobile Empire, shows that 63% employees use a desktop and 30% use a laptop. Moreover, 66% of employees prefer to use their mobile phone with a desktop computer.
In summary, 2016 will be an exciting and challenging year for Small and Medium Sized businesses. Organizations will need juggle the core functions but also look for ways to stretch their budgets in new innovation areas. They also need to become informed by learning and talking to technology professionals about how technology trends will affect their businesses.
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