What are the emerging IT trends? What are we potentially missing out on?

I get this question a lot from people who are anxious that they are not getting the benefits they should be from IT. The mindset out there is that technology is advancing so quickly that there might be a new solution to an old problem that will really make the difference in our businesses.

I am afraid that my reaction is to say: “Wake up Australian business owners – this country is falling behind in taking advantage of productivity tools and technology that have been around for years!” As a nation, we seem to be so afraid of investing in technology that we are persisting with tools that could be updated for a relatively small spend, relative to our salary bills.

Among the many exciting technology advancements taking place, there are some great things happening with Virtual PCs that may be of interest to some of the larger businesses with a distributed workforce – especially with Citrix releasing its new XenApp 6 about now. This technology promises to simplify the desktop virtualisation model in a number of interesting ways, moving the choice of five solutions down to a one solution fits all model. This will make desktop virtualisation an affordable reality for much smaller organisations.

Of course, we could grab this technology and try to find a business problem to solve with it, investing a lot of money on training our IT staff, buying equipment and licensing. Or, we could do some analysis of our business, figure out what tools the business needs and invest in those.

In the SME space, we are being very slow to adopt some of the following technologies that would give our business significant benefit:

  • Sales automation
  • Marketing automation
  • Information management
  • HR management
  • Process and financial management (ERP)

These solutions help us to:

  • Bring in work more effectively.
  • Automate mundane tasks so they happen reliably and produce dependable results.
  • Structure our data so we can manage it and report on it effectively.
  • Manage our staff with well-structured company-wide objectives.
  • Keep track of our stock and other resources.
  • Reduce waste and drive better processes.

Part of the problem is that many owners of SME businesses simply don’t have time to get out any more. Trade show attendee numbers are on the decline, and it is harder than ever to get people to attend events. Direct mail and email marketing has been overdone, so it is very hard to catch the attention of a business leader to introduce a new idea (or technology).

Of course, there are risks to implementing new solutions too, and I don’t want to gloss over those. A new system will cost a lot of money, and may not provide any benefit. Or, the implementation may go badly and just add expense to solving the business problem. And then, a new technology may emerge just around the corner that is better than the one you’ve just implemented; making the one installed a complete waste of time and resources. Or, your business may need to change direction in a way the new solution does not support, making the business less flexible rather than more productive.

Therefore, the quality of the business analysis done before investing is key to your upgrade. I see a lot of businesses hiring a business mentor to assist with driving profitability or growth, but I do not see business mentors helping create IT systems for productivity. As a result, there is a huge opportunity in our SME business community for business analysts to step in and help build productive businesses for the next decade. If there are any analysts out there focused on the 15 to 150 seat space, I would love to hear from you.

So, the missing element may well be the team of roving CIOs for organisations too small to employ a full-time CIO.

I hope the emerging trend is to stop looking at new technology, and instead look internally at the business issues. Once the business issues have been identified, ask the people who work with technology every day across multiple industries to resolve those issues with the best available technology. And, as always, it is important to build a relationship with an advisor you can trust.

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David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that ensures IT is never an impediment to growth.


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