It’s that time of year again, when we take stock of the past 12 months and try to peer into the mists of the year ahead to see what trends will be shaping lives and businesses going forward. For 2013, a few top technology trends are likely to have a big impact on small- and medium-sized businesses in this forthcoming year, including Wi-Fi becoming mainstream in SMBs, an increase in demand for managed services and the rise of the enterprise app store.
According to Richard Archer, sales director at UK solutions provider Redstone, managed services for SMBs will be a highlight in 2013. “While the uptake of cloud services has helped drive a demand for managed services in 2012, it’s SMBs who will benefit in the New Year,” he explained. “As with most technologies as they move towards maturity and commoditization, managed services providers have now reached a level of expertise that they can bring to bear in the SMB market.”
As a result, he predicts, next year we’ll see increased adoption of managed services by smaller companies who are able to realize the cost and efficiency benefits of moving all of their IT across to a provider with greatly reduced risk.
Meanwhile, 2013 will mark the beginning of the enterprise app store. As Channel Vision reported, the trend is just now gaining wings, with the launch of Google’s private app store creation service leading the way. In fact, analyst firm Gartner Inc. predicts “that by 2014 the role of IT will shift from that of a centralized planner to a market manager providing governance and brokerage services to the user.”
“Within a few years we’ll see a significant change in the way that the IT department offers technology to its employees,” said Archer. “As a result, we’re likely to see a move by IT companies into specialist consultancy advice on developing infrastructures to support app stores, as well as the software and services to deliver it.”
The rise of Wi-Fi as a corporate network will expand on the ongoing phenomenon of mobile data traffic growth in the enterprise. Cisco Systems Inc. for instance in its latest Visual Networking Index predicts that the number of Wi-Fi hotspots is expected to reach 2.7 million by 2014, with usage growing by 200 percent. In 2016, Wi-Fi traffic will surpass wired traffic in the business environment, it said.
“Driven by an increasing number of new devices and technology, as well as the availability of hotspots, Wi-Fi will become a recognized business network tool in the next year,” Archer said. “As more companies understand that mobility is the key to productivity for its workforce, they will come the realization that they need to develop a policy for enabling access over private and public (and unsecured) Wi-Fi hotspots.”
And finally, Big Data will make an appearance for medium sized businesses, Archer predicts. “Big Data and analytics were the domain of the enterprise in 2012, but 2013 will be the year that smaller companies are able to benefit from them as well,” he said. “We’re seeing a drive by the vendors and service providers to build analytics into everything as standard. This means that IT departments will be able to more easily derive information from data and add business value.”
Dovertailing with that, the increased uptake of managed services and ITaaS over the next 12 months by SMBs will mean that they are able to free up resources to concentrate on deriving the best and most valuable information from their existing data, he added.
In the middle of all of this, it’s clear that the CIO and IT department roles have undergone an evolution in the past 10 years. While the trend has not been radical, it has been a slow and steady move away from providing functional technology into a more strategic and service-orientated role. And that in turn has opened the door for channel partners to bring their consultative expertise to the mix with a range of solution-oriented recommendations.
According to David Cearley, vice president at Gartner, strategic technologies are emerging amidst a nexus of converging forces – social, mobile, cloud and information. “Although these forces are innovative and disruptive on their own, together they are revolutionizing business and society, disrupting old business models and creating new leaders,” he said. “As such, the Nexus of Forces is the basis of the technology platform of the future.”