Tomorrow’s World: Cloud computing, crystal balls and an HR renaissance

The IT industry is at its best when it is unpredictable. The most innovative technologies are often the most unexpected and seem to come from the most inauspicious of beginnings.

As the ever changing line up of so-called market disruptors continues to trample the status quo, we see time and time again that business can change extremely quickly and usually without much warning. Of course this is what makes IT such an exciting sector to work in, and what gets most of us out of bed in the morning.

On one hand, attempting to predict the future can feel like something of a fool’s errand, but it’s just too irresistible to put a finger in the air to check which way the prevailing winds are blowing. The pace of innovation has shown, time and time again, that organisations who fail to take note of the latest developments in their market are leaving themselves at a serious risk. Staying on the cutting edge of IT means keeping track of and anticipating the latest trends, while having the agility to, at a moment’s notice, capitalise on the new tools and techniques the market presents.

While some of the specifics will remain unknown, we can state with certainty that in 2016, the power of IT will continue to drive businesses in some very exciting ways:

Pedal to the floor: Cloud computing set to accelerate

It’s no longer a debate: cloud computing has won. As recently as two years ago the cloud factor had to be tabled early in a deal and would prompt concern, with many wringing their hands over the decision to move aspects of their businesses into a cloud environment. Now cloud computing is becoming the default.

If 2015 was the year of validation, then 2016 will be one of unstoppable growth. We can expect to see accelerated take up of ‘as a service’ solutions; no one wants to look backwards now when the necessity of change is so plainly obvious.

And with the ever changing privacy landscape – including the anxieties over the Safe Harbour legislation – the challenge to stay compliant despite shifting demands could soon become too much for businesses. Indeed, cloud may soon be the safe option for many global organisations as they become unable to keep their in-house IT up-to-date with new regulations. Entrusting responsibility for compliance to a third-party provider could well become the sensible option.

New challenges: Keeping cloud under control

With the emergence into the mainstream, cloud computing has thrown up a new challenge for businesses. Forget implementation, now organisations need to learn how to manage their cloud deployments. Where does cloud start? Where does it end?

In 2016 we’ll see a rise in concerns over governance, with the topic rapidly rising up the board agenda. With so many vendors, so many options, and such easy access from the wider business: how can the IT department maintain order? With the vast number of applications and services being brought in, organisations are in danger of adopting a ‘wild west’ approach to IT and the next year will see IT departments working hard to control their entire estate.

Crystal balls: Businesses that can predict the future will win

Analytics help companies find value in data storehouses, but Business Intelligence tools can only make sense of actions in the past or present. Companies will embrace tools that help them look into the future, modelling scenarios and impacts to actual business data, from sales forecasts to HR hiring costs.

The businesses that will succeed in the next few years are the ones looking forwards – not becoming hung up on past data but planning out an agile and dynamic strategy that will help them achieve their goals for the next five, ten, or twenty years.

Game changer: Living in harmony

It’s all about being more responsive. And with as much info as possible, scenario planning can be improved and made far richer. Today’s business is far more immediate – you need to be fast.

Most businesses today operate in a state of disconnection, unable to connect the dots between related functions. Over the next year, we’re going to see a greater emphasis on integrated business operations. Understanding your organisation can’t happen from silo’d data. It’s vital to understand how the connections between different departments impact each other, and ultimately the bottom line.

Business driver: The renaissance of HR

The workforce is one of the biggest costs for a business. It is also its most important asset. HR’s ability to partner with other areas of the business to address anticipated skills gaps and optimise staffing has a direct impact on the bottom line and potential revenue.

Previously, HR had been boxed up as a cost centre – albeit one of necessity – working only as a recruiting function and hub for employee welfare. In the coming year, we will increasingly see HR teams retooling their systems and processes, particularly in the area of workforce planning, to more effectively realise HR’s recently established position as a far more strategic part of the business. HR is ready to distinguish itself, working closely with the executive team and board to keep close tabs on the health of the organisation. With visibility into real-time data across the enterprise, pulling a lever in HR – whether that is in hiring, re-skilling, or staffing – can instantly affect the rest of the organisation.

Here is to the next 12 months, to new business models, and exciting new technologies: may they bring disruption and innovation; may they shake the status quo; may they leave the industry unrecognisable.

Michael Gould, CTO of Anaplan and Ian Stone, Managing Director of Anaplan UK and Ireland

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